When told a hardware lab could cost $1 million, Gabe Newell replied “that’s it?”

Valve is the videogame equivalent of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and Nick Wingfield of the New York Times got a glimpse inside the cave of wonders that is Valve’s hardware development section. He came away dazzled by Valve’s foray into wearable computing which, according to their creator and Valve man Michael Abrash, may only be three to five years away. This experiment with hardware development is a recent idea of Valve’s, but it’s one it’s more than capable to following through on. When told that a hardware lab might cost as much as $1 million dollars to build, inventor and Valve recruit Jeri Ellsworth recalled, “Gabe said, ‘That’s it?'”

The 3D Goggles that Wingfield saw are still in their early stages. “I have a crazy contraption strapped to my head,” Wingfield said, “a boxy set of goggles that looks like a 22nd-century version of a View-Master. It immerses me in a virtual world.” Wingfield describes the VR tech as “the future of videogames.” It still has a lot of kinks to work out. One of the challenges is how to maintain the illusion of a real-world environment interspersed with virtual objects. If the virtual world conflicts with the real, it creates visual discrepancies that shatter immersion. It’s one of several projects on the go; the Big Picture, another Valve innovation, is due to start testing very soon.

Valve hasn’t yet decided whether to manufacture the devices themselves, Michael Abrash revealed. “We don’t particularly want to be a company that makes hardware in large quantities,” Abrash said, but he also noted “Gabe has a saying, which is, ‘We will do what we need to do'”. When Valve first advertised for an industrial developer, the job posting read “we’re frustrated by the lack of innovation in the computer hardware space … so we’re jumping in.” Whether or not Valve actually manufactures these goggles and its other hardware itself or gets other companies to do it is less important to Valve than the fact that the hardware is achievable, and ought to be available. According to Newell’s philosophy, if nobody else will bring that hardware to market, then Valve will do what it needs to do.

Source: New York Times

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