The latest beta update to SteamVR has brought improvements to the way users can use their PC desktop inside of VR through the SteamVR dashboard. Now you can choose to display specific applications instead of your entire desktop, and you can dock window views to your controllers which will persist inside your VR application.
Update (April 30th, 2021): The latest version of the SteamVR beta, version 1.17.7, brings a useful upgrade to the new window-to-controller docking feature: the ability to position the window anywhere around your controller.
The SteamVR dashboard interface now also supports more individual windows. Previously it maxed out at four windows, but now you can scroll the list of windows to access more than four.
The original article, which shows the initial implementation of window focus and docking in the SteamVR dashboard, continues below.
Original Article (March 25th, 2021): SteamVR has long supported the ability to conveniently view and interact with your PC desktop through the SteamVR dashboard, but the latest beta update, version 1.17.2, adds simple but powerful new features.
First is the ability to add individual windows to the SteamVR dashboard, which makes it as easy to jump between specific applications as it is to jump between multiple monitors.
Second, any of the virtual desktop views, including individual applications, can be docked to your right or left controller. Doing so will make the window persist inside of your VR application even when you close the SteamVR dashboard. This is handy for making background applications—like chat or video feeds—easily glanceable even when inside the headset. You can also interact with the application attached to your hand using a virtual pointer (when your dashboard is open). Below you can see the new functions in action:
If you’d like to get a preview for yourself, here’s how:
Opt into SteamVR Beta
- In your Steam games list, right-click on SteamVR > Properties > Select the ‘Betas’ tab
- In the drop down list, select ‘SteamVR Beta Update’
- Allow SteamVR to update
The new SteamVR dashboard functionality is already pretty useful, but it also looks like a sign of things to come. For instance, right now there’s only room for four total virtual desktop views (be they desktops or application views), while additional views don’t have room to appear as a new button. We’d expect the interface will change in the future to accomodate more views at once.
Further, the only way to allow applications to remain visible while the dashboard is closed is to have them docked to your controller. For some games (especially seated), it would be better to simply float the window in place at a chosen location. This seems like a logical next step for this work, so we’d expect to see it in future updates.
At the beginning of last year Valve said it planned to launch “SteamVR 2.0” in 2020. While there has been a range of improvements since then, it seems the company fell short of that goal as it is still using a 1.xx version number. Still, the slowly improving dashboard features and full support for OpenXR seem to be steps toward “2.0,” so perhaps it is still on the horizon.
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