Alongside the reveal of the revamped Knuckles controllers that Valve shared last week, third party developers have confirmed they’ve begun receiving the new EV2 version of the controller. Valve says that “soon, hundreds of developers will get their hands on developer kits and begin experimenting,” and the company is inviting more developers to join the Knuckles dev kit program. Along with the clearly matured design shown off in Knuckles EV2, the quantity of controllers being shipped out to developers suggests that Valve has begun manufacturing small batches, possibly in preparation for a broader rollout.
Knuckles EV2 is the latest iteration of Valve’s in-development VR controller. The company first revealed the hardware project all the way back in 2016, and since then the device has come a long way. The EV2’s design is sleeker and more functional than its predecessors. Visually speaking, it looks much closer to a finished product, especially now that the SteamVR Tracking sensors have been hidden under the plastic. The input module, which contains the thumbstick, track button, and buttons, looks to be a singular unit which could drop directly into the circular opening in the housing of the controller—very similar to the consumer version of the Touch controllers—suggesting a more manufacturing-ready design than previous iterations. The hand strap is even said to be made from an “easy-to-clean anti-microbial material,” and has a fashionable heathered look to boot.
Speaking to Ars Technica, Valve’s Doug Lombardi suggested that the current version of Knuckles could even be the final design.
“Iteration is a big deal at Valve. So, we will definitely be making updates based on feedback. Whether that happens in the software or the physical hardware may vary depending on what we hear from the dev community.” When asked about consumer availability of the controllers, he told Ars, “more information will be made available soon.”
Valve says that Knuckles EV2 is shipping to hundreds of developers, and is welcoming more to request dev kits of their own by signing up on the Steam Partner page—”Log in and look for ‘VR Developer Kit Request’ along the right side of the page,” the company writes. Following the EV2 reveal, Alden Kroll, who is involved in developer outreach at Valve, said today that the company is “trying to meet more VR game developers in the Seattle and Puget Sound area.”
Putting Knuckles in the hands of “hundreds” of developers means two individual controllers for each, so at a minimum the company is manufacturing 200+ devices, which means it’s quite unlikely that they’re relying on much hand-building at this point. Valve has shown its affinity for automated hardware manufacturing, and while it seems unlikely that they’ve gone that far just yet, the production of hundreds of dev kits suggests that they’ve moved to small batch manufacturing as they tune the process for larger production runs, especially considering the need to support an influx of developers who will need additional controllers when hardware issues arise.
Taken together, the latest info on Knuckles suggests that the controllers could be ready for mass production as early as this year, but that may not be the only factor in when they come to market. Valve has heavily hinted that the three VR games the company is building have been developed in conjunction with the development of Knuckles, and it’s quite possible that the release of their first major VR title will be tied to the release of Knuckles. Valve tends to follow a ‘done when it’s done’ approach, so we’ll have to wait to see what factor Valve Time plays in the project.