HTC says that the new Vive Pro controllers, due out later this year, will be an updated version of the current Vive wands, rather than Valve’s anticipated ‘Knuckles’ controllers.

Upon unveiling the Vive Pro earlier this week, HTC demonstrated the new headset with the original Vive wand controllers but said that new controllers, compatible with SteamVR Tracking 2.0, would be introduced and sold alongside the Vive Pro later this year. Many hoped the forthcoming Vive Pro controllers would take the form of Valve’s anticipated ‘Knuckles’ design, but the company has confirmed to Road to VR that’s not the case.

The original Vive wand controller | Photo by Road to VR

Instead of the Knuckles controllers, HTC plans to ship the Vive Pro with a pair of updated wand controllers which will include the SteamVR Tracking 2.0 sensors. The company says the wands will see a refreshed design, but it won’t be Knuckles.

The Vive community has been excited for the Knuckles controllers since their introduction last year. The controllers have a unique design that’s a stark departure from the Vive wands: they’re more compact and feature a ‘cinch’ that allows the controller to be worn around the palm so that the user can let go of the controller’s body entirely to facilitate more natural gripping gestures. The Knuckles controllers also include capacitive sensors capable of analog finger tracking. Reports indicate they are a good answer to Oculus’ Touch controllers, which are preferred by many over the Vive wands.

Image courtesy Shawn Whiting

Valve has been iterating on the Knuckles design, and shipped dev kits to developers back in June, 2017. Since then, anticipation has only grown, and the Vive community has been eagerly waiting the controller’s public availability.

As for why HTC made this choice, it sounds like it may not have been up to them.

“Knuckles release date and introduction is a Valve question,” an HTC spokesperson told Road to VR, suggesting that the company would be shipping with Knuckles, if the option was available.

SEE ALSO
Valve Sends 'Knuckles' Controller Dev Kit to Revive Developer

Since HTC and Valve worked closely together on the development of the Vive, it has long felt like a natural conclusion that Knuckles would eventually become part of the Vive system.

Image courtesy Cloudhead Games

But with HTC just about ready to roll out a new headset, and still no Knuckles in sight, it’s possible that Valve is taking a different approach with the controllers—perhaps they plan to sell them direct to customers? It’s not implausible, given that Valve makes and sells the Steam Controller direct to PC gamers. Valve might want Knuckles to become a common VR input device across all SteamVR headsets so that developers have a consistent target for developing their input interactions. Or maybe Valve just hasn’t finished designing them.

With no recent update from Valve, it’s hard to say. We’ve reached out to ask the company for a status update on the development and release roadmap for Knuckles, and you’ll hear from us if we hear from them.

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  • PRGuy69

    So the knuckles are only compatible with the new sensors right? How are these updated wands compatible with the old and the new? Can someone clarify that for me? Cheers.

    • Mettanine

      New sensors are compatible with old lighthouses, so the new wands and knuckles will both work with current 1.0 lighthouses.
      The reverse is not true, though (2.0 lighthouses can only track 2.0 sensors)

      • PRGuy69

        Ah! Got it. Thank you.

  • Get Schwifty!

    Another factor here might be cost – with all the cost cutting going on, suddenly introducing controllers only aimed at Vive may put again the price point higher for a Vive setup than a complete package from Oculus which is bad timing when Oculus has near parity now with Vive. The feature of “not dropping your controller” which frankly doesn’t really happen easily with Touch I think makes the timing bad to release them currently even with “Vive 2.0” because HTC/Valve cannot afford to have a higher priced package.

    What then makes the most sense is Valve decoupling itself from HTC and releasing a controller capable of being used with either headset independent of either package cost and theoretically an improvement on either existing one though I still suspect the ergonomics of the Touch will be a bit better to the hand while the knuckles allow “free throw” as their claim to fame, at least up until there is a release of a revised Touch controller.

    • Sam Illingworth

      How about Tails?

      • Ragbone

        Heads first.

    • Icebeat

      ‘Oculus has near parity now with Vive’ in your dreams.

      • care package

        If he’s referring to sales, Valve themselves just confirmed they’re neck and neck. Since not all Rift users are using Steam that would put Rift sales past the Vive.

        • DirkaDirk

          Agreed. I only use steam maybe 20% of the time. Rest is spend on oculus/dash.

      • Kurt Fadrny

        Agreed Once you have 360 tracking on your Oculus It Kicks the Vives A$$ and at hundreds of dollars cheaper. The Vive wands are ridiculous to use compared to the touch and they break like they are made of gingerbread when you hit them. So yea they are not on par at all they are superior.

        • mirak

          So superior that Oculus had to slice the price to compete with the Vive.
          There is something you just don’t get.

          • Sandy Wich

            I have the Rift, the tracking with even 4 sensors isn’t perfect.

          • DirkaDirk

            Sounds like you’re doing something wrong. I have 3 sensors and it’s perfect.

          • DirkaDirk

            Sorry you got duped into spending more for a arguably worse experience on the Vive. Maybe be smarter next time ?

          • mirak

            When I bought it Oculus, I didn’t have to pay for a useless Xbox pad instead of real motion controllers, and even after that, the touch and additional camera were more expensive than the Vive.
            So, no.

        • Martijn Valk

          Bullsh*t. I’ve hit my wands multiple times to the ceiling pretty hard (I have my setup on the attic, so..), and apart from some nearly unnoticeable scratches they still work as good as new.

      • Get Schwifty!

        In sales, and technically they are both fairly close though the tracking edgie goes to Vive, the ergonomics generally go to Oculus.

    • Pablo C

      May be the knuckles are meant for a 2nd gen of Rift running on OpenXr, which might have a different tracking system (It seems future tracking is going two ways: Lighthouse or inside-out. Constellation seems fainting, don´t you think?)

      • AndyP

        Yes, Oculus needs to drop constellation tracking asap – though that’s what they appear to be working on (not ‘counting my chickens’). Though I don’t think they need knuckles on Rift, as Touch controllers are not a weakness.

        • Get Schwifty!

          I own a Rift and with the firmware updates and proper calibration Constellation works quite well, not _as_ well as Lighthouse in a couple cases, but you Vive fans act like its unplayable which is simply not the case in the least. If it were no one would continue to use them. I really am amazed that after all this time we still have people with this attitude.

          • Pablo C

            I own a Rift too, and I agree that it works perfectly. It just that the constellation system seems more cumbersome than the other systems, and tech usualy tends to choose one form factor in time, which I´m betting it´ll be one of the two I mentioned.

          • Pablo C

            As a rift owner, I have to recognoice that the Vive is the system that is taking the lead in tech advances on VR (room scale, controllers, front camera, wireless, etc). I´m not saying they´ll be the winners of this VR battle, since they don´t have the pockets for it, but they are taking the tech advantage, just as Oculus is taking the comercial advantage. I personally don´t like that, but I don´t have the pockets to own a Vive (and from the gameplay perspective they are the same).

          • mirak

            I don’t think oculus is not investing in r&d.
            Valve happened to have the best ones with Adam Yates who created Lighthouse.

            But Oculus with facebook can easier buy companies and tech, like Apple does.

          • Doctor Bambi

            Just because Oculus isn’t openly talking about these technologies doesn’t mean they aren’t working on them. Facebook is investing big time in VR and AR research.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RueT9FhiCtg

          • dmbfk

            So glad Get Schwifty! has joined in, he really doesn’t say enough.

        • G-man

          even if occulus go inside out tracking they will need constellation tracking on the controllers.

        • Doctor Bambi

          Constellation will essentially morph into the inside-out variation we’re getting glimpses of on the Santa Cruz prototype.

    • insum snoy

      “Oculus has near parity with Vive” …depends what you consider near compared to everyone else. Furthermore the gap is wider still with the announcement of Vive Pro.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Sales. Period. Most people will almost never see any difference in tracking between the versions of Lighthouse, and Oculus tracking is no longer a real issue. Why so salty? It doesn’t take away from your favorite if another company does well. In fact, by sales, its entirely possible Oculus will actually exceed Vive, and tbh the 2nd round of customers are not as concerned with the technical questions that you or I would be.

        • insum snoy

          Not sure where you get salty from my comment but its pretty clear you are…

          Check your attitude before making the assumption that someone other than you is a defensive fanboy.

        • mirak

          You already see the difference when you have to pull 3 USB cables from your pc to the sensors.

          You also don’t seem to understand that Lighthouse is to VR what USB is to computers.
          You can integrate other peripherals, do body tracking or whatever.

          Also oculus had to kill the Oculus price to compete with the Vibe, everybody has seen that …

          • Gonzalo Novoa

            How do the lighthouses connect to the computer? bluetooth or how?

          • mirak

            They don’t need to be connected to the computer.
            You need to connect them to the computer in usb or bluetooth to update the firmware.
            They can be remotely powered on and off with Bluetooth.
            There is a bluetooth transmitter in the small breakout box, I am not sure if it can work without it.

            But the controllers need some wireless receiver that is in the headset, so you would need a separate dongle that doesn’t exists.

          • Gonzalo Novoa

            Thats cool, no need for cables is really good, I didn’t know that, though I guess they still need to be connected to a power socket or do they run on batteries?

          • mirak

            A powersocket adapter converts to 12V and connect to the lighthouse.
            Some people on Reddit say they ran them from 12V battery packs.

          • Doctor Bambi

            Considering only one major headset manufacturer has brought a product to the platform, it’s starting to look more like a higher end option requiring more expensive hardware. Something more akin to Firewire. Computer vision based systems like Windows MR seem likely to become the ‘USB’ of VR, providing a more limited experience but good enough for general consumer use.

          • mirak

            No, lighthouse is like usb, leaning you can plug in easily extra peripherals into the vr world.

    • Doctor Bambi

      “Knuckles release date and introduction is a Valve question,”
      This quote is pretty interesting as it could mean HTC is pretty much just as clueless as to a timeline as we are.

      If that’s the case it seems very likely, Valve is planning on releasing the controllers direct to consumer. Personally, that idea concerns me for the typical device fragmentation reasons. I’m sure Valve has a game plan in place, but going the “optional additional purchase” route is risky to say the least, especially for something as integral as the way we interact with virtual worlds.

      And perhaps Valve will do a similar thing to Oculus here where they start off selling the controllers separately and then bundle them with headsets later down the road.

      • G-man

        the steamvr standard works with a bunch of controllers, doesnt matter that they have already added a new one, people dot have to own it.

        • Doctor Bambi

          That’s a fair point, Valve has gone to great lengths to make SteamVR as hardware agnostic as possible, but Knuckles is going to pose an interesting challenge for compatibility. Developers will have to walk a somewhat fine line between innovative interaction design and keeping things non essential enough that they either work when dumbing them down for wands or turning off those new features completely (e.g. inverse kinematics, or fine motor object interaction).

          Developers won’t really be able to support Knuckles in a big way if only a small fragment of users have them. Knuckles or something like it will need to be bundled with a headset at some point if we want to see more robust hand presence become the norm in SteamVR games.

          • G-man

            Its not that hard to design a basic control scheme for wands and thena different one for knuckles. Some devs even showed how the knuckles just work in their games because valve made them just work in steamvr

          • Doctor Bambi

            I’m willing to bet Knuckles will be fully backwards compatible with all existing wand based games when it officially releases.

            But It becomes a potential problem when you want to use the Knuckles controllers in ways that impact game design. Having finger tracking is like adding two more grip buttons, and now all three have analog states. If these buttons are leveraged by a developer in a way that’s core to the gameplay experience, Vive, Touch, or Windows MR won’t be functionally capable of playing the game.

            That’s probably going to translate to devs building their games for all controllers and then adding some cool but ultimately non-essential finger tracking stuff for the Knuckles users.

          • Adam Baldwin

            ” If these buttons are leveraged by a developer in a way that’s core to the gameplay experience, Vive, Touch, or Windows MR won’t be functionally capable of playing it.”

            You’ve just confused three different things here: Vive is a headset, Touch is a controller, and Windows Mixed Reality is a software platform.

          • Doctor Bambi

            Edited for clarity, sorry about that.

    • mirak

      Knuckles would need a receiver and two lighthouse in plus of the oculus sensors.

    • Casey Edward Wagers

      its so the controllers can tell you de way

  • impurekind

    “The company says the wands will see a refreshed design, but it won’t be Knuckles.”

    Cool. I get the feeling they’re really improve the ergonomics, which is great because this was really the only issue I had with the original designs (for what they were).

  • Marco Dena

    To the reviewers: Is it possible to know if the Vive Pro will ever be sold without the new audio strap (front screen only)? Thanks

    • insum snoy

      Yes they will do a headset only upgrade for owners of current Vive.

      • Lars G P

        Headset only will most likely include the audio strap. The “headset only” just means without wands, lighthouses and hub, I think…

        • Marco Dena

          Exactly, i would like to continue using my old setup and buy the front screen only, if possible.

          • mellott124

            Not going to happen. You’ll need to buy the new headset

        • insum snoy

          IDK for sure about the head strap. There was a website (ill see if i can find a link in a few mins) that rumors a $350 price on headset only upgrade, if its true id assume thats without a strap as the strap itself would be $120+.

          • Lars G P

            Well, if it’s true, that’ll be good :D I will have to upgrade my Vive!

          • gothicvillas

            i recently bought their headstrap and if they sell headset only that’d be ace!!!

  • Pablo C

    Valve sells games and generic gaming devices, not attached to any particular platform. May be they are planning the knuckles for OpenXR and the actual 2nd gen. May be the Rift´s 2nd gen headset will use the same touch controllers as the 1st, and hence we might have the chance to order a 2nd gen OpenXR Rift without them, then getting the Knuckles appart. HTC+Valve was kind of a weird deal anyways, and it might be falling appart.

  • Rick

    yeah..150 euro EACH, like their normal controllers? ?!?!?!! Basterds

  • J.C.

    Oh good, HTC/Valve just saved me quite a bit of money. I’d have bought the new kit if it came with new controllers. As is, I’m not terribly concerned with a little higher res screen. I can stick with my original Vive until a true 2.0 kit comes out.

  • Rick

    Quote: We’ve reached out to
    ask the company for a status update on the development and release
    roadmap for Knuckles, and you’ll hear from us if we hear from them.

    Hope they let you know!

  • Duane Aakre

    “Valve might want Knuckles to become a common VR input device across all SteamVR headsets”

    Are there any SteamVR headsets besides the ones from HTC?

    I know LG was talking about one, but news on it seems dead quiet for at least six months. So perhaps it is not happening.

    Are there any others?

    • Zerofool

      The upcoming Pimax 5K and 8K models will rely on the SteamVR Lighthouse tracking system and will supposedly work with most SteamVR-compatible apps.
      According to Valve, there are more unannounced HMDs in development which will use SteamVR, but no details were ever given.

      • Duane Aakre

        Thanks. Even though I’ve been seeing a lot of press about Pimax at CES, I forgot all about them also using Steam tracking.

  • Graham Parker

    Hopefully they take the chance to fix the clickable touch pad with a more reliable internal design, the failure rate on those is shockingly bad.

  • AndyP

    A missed oportunity to tackle the biggest issue, for some at least. A shame.

  • chaos_in_ashland

    HTC should instead embrace the future of porn in VR and make weird haptic sensors for the nether regions. We all know how nerds are, and how eager we are to spend money on these things.

    • DirkaDirk

      Asking for a friend?

  • Kristopher Holmberg

    Damn — Really wanting a much better controller. I have a Rift and had a Vive and the thing that makes me kinda regret getting the Oculus in an attempt to save money is that A: I didn’t, had to get a third sensor, and a new usb card, and I bought FO4VR which I could a for free just getting a new Vive at the time. and B: Touch controllers hurt like hell for me. I’m an abnormal case, but I physically can’t use the touch controllers for more than half an hour or so, but had no problems at all with the vive controllers.

    • Gonzalo Novoa

      Really? I can play for hours with the touch controllers. For me, the best controllers I’ve ever tried on any device. Actually the main reason why I bought the Rift and not the Vive.

  • JustNiz

    It appears they are aiming the Pro more at corporate users than gamers.

  • Arv

    To me it’s sounding like the Knuckles controllers are going to need a complete design. Oculus had a near identical prototype for the Touch controllers but they ditched the design because the strap wasn’t good enough and their staff started to accidentally throw the things around the office every now and then.

  • Firestorm185

    Aww man, Vive Pro & Knuckles was gonna be so cool though. No more sonic jokes for now then, I guess. xD

  • Scypheroth

    i dont see a need for these the original valve wands are perfect and dont have any issues

  • Lucidfeuer

    Hopefully the new wands are better tracked and more importantly way more compact.

    • Laurence Nairne

      More compact and designed with some form of ergonomics in mind. I’ve had more comfortable experiences using my TV remote than the current ones, sheesh!

      • Lucidfeuer

        Actually yes, this is not even decent industrial and ergonomic design.

  • Joshua Holmes

    I have both the Oculus and the Vive, and the controllers are a real deal breaker.
    The Oculus Touch controllers feels great, while the Vive wands are horrible. Got the Vive solely to play Fallout 4 VR, but I don’t even bother. No joystick, large and bulky, and painful to hold for long periods.
    If Bethesda weren’t dicks and came out with Skyrim VR and Fallout 4 VR for Oculus I wouldn’t have bothered in the first place (Hell I would probably have bought a second Oculus, my roommate won’t play Onward local multiplayer with me because he hates the Vive wands so much).
    Until the Knuckles are release I’ll stick with the rift.