Today at the Steam Dev Days conference in Seattle, Valve is showing off brand new prototypes of its Steam VR controllers.
While the original VR controllers that ship with the HTC Vive are undoubtedly functional, it’s widely agreed that Oculus’ forthcoming ‘Touch’ controllers are a big step forward in ergonomics. That gap may soon be a thing of the past, as Valve is showcasing new VR controller prototypes at Steam Dev Days which offer a much different take on the design.
The new SteamVR controller prototypes have a much smaller
footprint handprint than what’s in the hands of HTC Vive users today. The prototypes are not so much held as they are (optionally) gripped; a band hooking over the side of the user’s palm connects the core of the controller to a sort of backhand gripper which appears to keep the controller attached to the hand even while it isn’t being held.
The controllers can be seen dotted in uncovered SteamVR Tracking sensors, just like prototypes of the original controller. One source from the event says that each controller has 21 sensors.
Important thing here- you can close your hand halfway. #SteamDevDays pic.twitter.com/5z64vTvf6j
— Fox B @SteamDevDays (@FoxBuchele) October 12, 2016
Developers at the conference today who have tried the controller say that users can ‘let go’ of the controller while in use, and it stays attached to the hand. This allows virtual objects to be thrown with the aid of the natural muscle-memory of opening one’s hand as they throw, an instinct that must be subdued with other controllers to save from throwing the controller clear across the room (always to hit a TV, somehow). Always wear your wrist straps, folks.
"Being actually able to throw things and let go…it's huge" @saniul on the new #Vive controllers #SteamDevDays
— Eva @ SteamDevDays (@downtohoerth) October 12, 2016
It appears that the controller may also support variable states between ‘open hand’ and ‘gripped hand’, reflecting a more natural connection between the user’s real and virtual hand positions.
The Valve VR controller prototypes appear to be 3D printed and feature a trigger and trackpad with three face buttons surrounding it. Some photos appear to show an array of LEDs across the front of the controller though the component’s function remains unknown.
With Valve not inviting any press to Steam Dev Days, further details surrounding the controller are thin; it’s not currently known what the company’s plans are for the controller going forward, but we’ll keep you in the know as we learn more.