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.
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.
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.
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.
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 [Amazon] 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.