Valve released an update to SteamVR this week that unexpectedly added new content to SteamVR Home.
Valve has long been making small but helpful updates to SteamVR, but especially in the last year there hasn’t been a particularly clear signal that the company was putting much work into the platform.
That’s why it was surprising to see that with the public launch of the SteamVR 1.22 update this week, the company added a surprise—a brand new photogrammetry environment for SteamVR Home, its first-party VR social space.
The new environment is a capture of a portion of the village of Fornalutx in Mallorca, which resides in the Western Mediterranean Sea.
SteamVR users can download the new environment by subscribing to it in the Steam Workshop. Once downloaded, it will become available as a new place you and friends can visit in SteamVR Home.
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like this slice of new content means that Valve has renewed motivation to work on its VR platform. As explained in the patch notes, the photos were originally captured back in October 2019—shortly after the release of the company’s Index headset. Given what we know about Valve’s unique corporate structure, it seems likely the timing of this release merely coincided with an individual at the company digging up the old photos and processing them as something of a side project.
So, nice to have a cool new scan to explore, but we don’t think it means Valve is suddenly going to be cranking out big new updates for SteamVR.
The company has continued to work on SteamVR, albeit slowly. A handful of updates have landed over the last year or so that have made improvements to the SteamVR dashboard, added new settings for power users, and made the platform play nicer with Quest headsets using Oculus Link.
Granted, still long overdue is a SteamVR native version of core Steam features like friends list, voice chats, a fully functional store and library, achievements, and more. SteamVR for a long time has fallen back to the Steam ‘Big Picture’ interface that’s designed for large displays. Unfortunately in VR that interface runs very clunkily and was clearly designed for a different input modality.
Beyond adding the new SteamVR Home environment, the SteamVR 1.22 update also brought with it a bunch of bug fixes and technical improvements that were previously released in beta versions of the software; you can see the full patch notes here.