We’re still holding our breath of the next wave of consumer VR headsets yet to come, namely Rift S, Quest, and Valve Index. None of them have official release dates yet, so some intrepid developers found a way to bide their time by making the Valve and the soon-to-launch Valve Index controllers (ex-Knuckles) hum beautiful MIDI files just for the fun of it.

No, these aren’t using any clever hidden speakers. Developers ‘m3gagluk’ and Climbey (2016) developer Brian Lindenhof made their VR controllers sing using the controllers’ built-in haptic actuators. If you’ve ever seen the Imperial March played on floppy disk drives, you get the basic idea.

Ostensibly, ‘m3gagluk’ was the first to hack the Vive controller to do this, making it play ‘Still Alive’ from Portal (2007).

In a clear act of one-upmanship, Lindenhof posted a retort using recent developer kit version of Valve’s ‘Knuckles’ controllers (the soon to be Index controllers).

Lindenhof is known for his work on Climbey, the VR climbing game that pits you against difficult obstacles courses.

According to ‘m3gagluk’, Vive and Knuckles both use the same actuators you’ll find in Switch’s HD Rumble JoyCons. Since the portable console’s release in 2017, makers have been finding inventive ways to hack JoyCons into playing their favorite tunes, so transferring that knowledge to VR controllers makes a certain amount of sense.

Side note: Actuator-based music is actually an Easter egg in Switch title Kirby Star Allies (2018), where you’ll hear Kirby’s theme song when you beat ‘Extra Planet Z’

If you’re looking to assemble your own chorus of VR controllers (please do that), ‘m3gagluk’ has published the relevant work on GitHub for all to use.

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  • Nepenthe

    Linear Resonant Actuator (LRA). It’s the thing that generates the “high
    def” haptics. It bears some resemblance to a dynamic speaker driver.

    Simpler controllers (PS4, Xbox) contain ERMs — Eccentric
    Rotating Mass. LRAs can vary both frequency and amplitude and can do so
    independently, but tend not to pack a wallop, while ERMs are stronger but the
    amplitude and frequency are intrinsically tied to each other (although
    some controllers have more than one ERM).

    Also, LRAs are much “faster” — their transient response or the time it
    takes them to start and stop is much quicker than ERMs which have a lot
    more mass to accelerate and decelerate, so ERMs tend to be “fuzzy” when
    trying to do anything high definition.

    • brandon9271

      Do you know if this is the same haptic device inside the Steam controller?

      • Nepenthe

        Very similar. Probably not exactly the same model.

  • Try cyubeVR with the new Beta 30.0 ;) .

  • Moriar

    the knuckels sounds much better!

    • Jistuce

      That’s the best thing about this, is it lets us do meaningful comparisons between the Knuckles and other controllers before they release.

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    Floppotron is another floppy disc ‘instrument’ that is capable of producing some very warm and pleasing interpretations of all the various Star Wars tunes. Check it out ^^’

  • HybridEnergy

    Hah I saw this video on Brian’s youtube channel. It’s pretty amusing.