SteamVR 2.0, not to be confused with the SteamVR Base Station 2.0, is quickly making waves in virtual reality space. Despite an early start in the VR industry, with the introduction of solutions like the Valve Index, Valve has been relatively quiet in the XR space for a while.
Though rumors suggest a new extended reality headset could be on the horizon, Valve has yet to update its hardware portfolio to compete with brands like Meta and Apple. However, the introduction of SteamVR 2.0 in October 2023 could mark the beginning of a change.
Here’s everything you need to know about SteamVR 2.0, the updated features of the VR user interface, and what it means for businesses investing in virtual reality.
What is SteamVR 2.0? An Introduction
SteamVR 2.0 is an upgraded version of the virtual reality software interface for Steam users. According to Valve, it’s the first big step the organization is taking towards a larger ongoing effort to unify the Steam ecosystem for everyone. The update aligns SteamVR with the Steam Deck and Stem experience, introducing “current features” from both environments.
Valve first teased the introduction of SteamVR 2.0 way back in 2020. Rumors suggested the UI would be released later that year. However, the pandemic and various other macroeconomic issues led to significant delays for the brand.
Finally, in September 2023, Valve introduced the Beta mode of SteamVR to a select number of users just before Meta was set to host the annual Connect event, sharing details on the Meta Quest 3.
The updated solution promises a far more streamlined and intuitive user experience for Steam fans and VR users. Additionally, the architecture means Valve can ship new Steam capabilities into SteamVR much faster. This will be vital if the company goes ahead with its rumored plans to introduce new headsets in the months ahead.
The New SteamVR 2.0 Dashboard: Improved Experiences
While many consumers and businesses have experimented with the Steam ecosystem, the software hasn’t always had the best reputation. The original SteamVR interface featured a mixture of menus, styles, and widgets that could be notoriously difficult to navigate.
This new update makes the interface lighter, easier to navigate and better integrated with the Steam app. Valve says the new dashboard will include the following improvements:
- Current features from Steam and Steam Deck within SteamVR.
- An updated keyboard supporting new emojis, themes, and languages.
- Improved store experience with insights into trending products.
- Integration of voice chat and Steam Chat.
The bottom of the dashboard also includes a section where users can quickly see the battery life on their VR remotes and access notifications. Steam said this is just the beginning of the SteamVR 2.0 journey, with more updates to release going forward.
The Benefits of SteamVR 2.0 for Business Users
While SteamVR is often associated with the consumer VR space, many changes to the new technology interface also benefit commercial users. As companies look ahead to the rise of the industrial metaverse, demand for straightforward and convenient software will accelerate.
SteamVR 2.0 is hugely different from the former UI. Jumping around the menus is easier, accessing your PC’s desktop is more straightforward, and the shortcuts are more convenient, too. Desktop monitors can be locked in place in the Steam VR world or accessed via your controllers for quick and straightforward navigation.
The library page matches the functionality of the Steam Deck. It makes it easy to search through collections of valuable apps for immersive training and collaboration. Plus, everything is organized into collections, which saves time.
Plus, all the features you might need to collaborate in VR are available at the touch of a button. Integrating Steam Chat and voice chat is ideal for communicating with colleagues within virtual reality settings. There’s also a new “VR tab,” which organizes all the titles you’re most interested in using into a quick-access space for immediate launch.
As an added bonus, the drop-down keyboard functionality makes entering text into a VR world easy. This keyboard allows users to type with two cursors from both controllers. Plus, there are more languages and access to emojis for interacting with friends and peers.
Perhaps most importantly, the latest SteamVR 2.0 UI lets you keep your headset on when navigating between conversations and apps. You don’t have to take your headset off whenever you need to load something on your computer.
Bug Fixes and Smaller Improvements
The SteamVR 2.0 doesn’t just make the virtual reality dashboard more convenient for commercial and consumer buyers. The upgrade has also allowed Valve to fix a lot of problems that have been plaguing VR fans for a while now.
The company has implemented a more consistent dashboard style, laser pointer smoothing, and enhancements to driver configurations, as well as the Index controller firmware. Various upgrades have also been made to the SteamVR experience on Meta, Linux, and Windows platforms. Steam keeps a complete log of the most recent updates and bug fixes here.
With SteamVR 2.0, users can now toggle multitasking views on Windows 10 and 11 overlays. Plus, there are new fixes for the IVR Virtual Display interface. The overall UI update represents Valve’s comprehensive effort to make the SteamVR experience more intuitive for everyone.
What’s Next for SteamVR?
As mentioned above, Valve hasn’t made many changes to its VR hardware or software in the last couple of years. The last major update to the SteamVR platform simply added OpenXR extension support for developers. Beyond that, Valve has focused chiefly on the Steam Deck.
However, the substantial update to the SteamVR 2.0 interface could indicate that Valve is refocusing its efforts. Rumors are circulating about developing new mobile headsets to capture a wider share of the extended reality market.
Over the years, it has also been rumored that Valve is working on a wireless headset, which could be accompanied by a Valve-branded console.
It makes sense that Valve would want to dive back into its development journey now that Meta has achieved significant success with the Meta Quest 3. However, it’s difficult to know whether SteamVR 2.0 is simply a much-needed maintenance upgrade or the start of something new.
Fans certainly have hope that Valve is diving back into virtual reality space. After all, the Index did emerge as one of the most popular VR headsets in the consumer market. Additionally, focusing on improving collaboration and work-based features in the SteamVR 2.0 solution could indicate a move towards focusing on a larger commercial market.
Looking Ahead with SteamVR
If Valve chooses to re-enter the VR hardware space following this recent SteamVR 2.0 update, they’d be jumping in at an exciting time. Virtual reality demand is increasing not just among consumers but among business leaders, too.
If Valve can produce something like the Meta Quest 3 or the impending Apple Vision Pro, serving more than just gamers, they could be primed for significant growth. The decision to significantly improve the SteamVR interface suggests Valve is already focusing on the right thing: user experience.
However, it remains to be seen how this will translate into Valve’s VR hardware roadmap if the company chooses to start developing again. In the meantime, Valve is encouraging its customers to provide feedback on the new SteamVR experience.
Additionally, users can sign up to participate in future SteamVR betas. This indicates there will definitely be more updates in this space.