If you’re curious about the growth potential of the virtual-reality market—especially from an employment perspective—look no further than development giant Valve, which devotes nearly a third of its staff to VR applications.
That’s massive, considering all the other projects under Valve’s umbrella, and a sign that many in tech see VR as the future of gaming (and perhaps much more).
That staffing statistic comes courtesy of Alan Yates, a high-ranking engineer at Valve, in comments on Reddit. (Hat tip to Uploadvr.com for pointing it out.) “Key individuals that solved most of the really hard technological problems and facilitated this generation of consumer headsets are still here working on the next generation,” he wrote in a commenting thread.
“Digitally mediated reality is one of those incredibly impactful technologies,” Yates added. “Short of human space flight or life sciences I can’t imagine working on something of more significance right now.”
Valve is currently looking for virtual reality engineers with experience in human-computer interaction, computer vision (tracking, photogrammetry, bundle adjustment), 3D skills, and engine integration (Unity and Unreal preferred).
A lot of smaller firms working in the VR space have gotten very good at leveraging specific technologies such as eye tracking and display hardware, Yates continued in another part of the thread, but haven’t managed to turn that knowledge into a successful product. “The minimum viable product is now a pretty high bar and that can stifle innovation,” he wrote. With that in mind, Valve is apparently planning on licensing its research and technology to those smaller creators, provided the smaller company’s device ends up interoperable with Valve’s platform.
For smaller developers interested in VR, licensing from Valve, Facebook, Microsoft or another company in the space may eventually prove the best route forward. That would certainly save money on research and development, and allow devs to focus on creating next-generation products, although it raises some longer-term concerns about licensing conditions and vendor lock-in.
Valve isn’t the only competitor in the virtual-reality space, and it remains to be seen whether its open approach to the VR ecosystem will pay off, especially since there are hints that competitors may take a different stance. (Facebook, for example, seems determined to lock down some software on the Oculus platform.) Given how it’s still very early days for VR, it may be years before any trends become clear. But in the interim, from an employee perspective, Valve is betting very big on VR as the future.