Valve’s Steam Controller is go, with beta run models going out for testing from the company. The Steam Controller has languished in development for many months now, going through various iterations and layouts as Valve has been painstakingly weighing up the pros and cons various design choices for the final model.
But what can we expect from this final version? Already the possible inclusion of touch sensitive components has been put on the table, and the new model indeed does utilize a large central touch screen panel for inputting multiple commands, which is also ‘clickable’.
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But by far the strangest of all the feature of the Steam controller is its dual touch pads, which are included in the absence of analog control sticks traditionally seen on controllers ever since the good old days of gaming. The pair of trackpads can also be ‘clicked’ as a mouse would be.
Another interesting feature is the use of haptic feedback as opposed to traditional rumble weights on the controller. Weighted electromagnets below the two trackpads are designed to emulate the feeling of moving a joystick, an impressive feat of technological engineering.
So impressive are the trackpads in fact, that Valve claims that ‘as a parlour trick’ the trackpads and the electromagnets behind them can also produce sounds and function as speakers. The way Valve casually flaunts this feature is a testament to how far the company has gone with the device. The Steam Controller has joysticks that can sing.
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Valve says that this long-winded testing and prototyping of the controller lead to the revelation that in order to replace the joystick, they must also equal the ‘visceral feedback’ a player feels through moving the joysticks. The haptic feedback is therefor included to make that feeling present to complement the ‘light touch’ of the trackpads.
We plan to make tools available that will enable users to participate in all aspects of the experience, from industrial design to electrical engineering. We can’t wait to see what you come up with.
The Steam Controller also offers configuration schemes which can be easily shared between players, so layouts used in games are no longer fully defined by developer, that is if the game is compatible. Valve have also said the controller will work with every Steam game. On top of this, all of the controller’s schematics and configurations will be avaliable to Steam users.
The first 300 or so beta Steam Controller models will go out minus the touch screen, for testing purposes. But soon after, hopefully very soon, the controller will be released into the wild for the public to enjoy. We’ll let you know as soon as we hear anything else.