Valve is hoping to make virtual reality gaming a more finely-tuned and immersive experience with the introduction of a new ‘Knuckles’ controller for SteamVR that’s now shipping to developers.
With the device being unleashed (at least to devs), Valve has taken the opportunity to spill more info on exactly how the controller works – previously, we’ve seen glimpses of Knuckles, notably at Steam Dev Days 2016 last fall, but not much was shared in the way of actual details.
Essentially, the controller consists of a central wand-style section – sporting a trackpad, several buttons, plus a trigger – which is gripped in the user’s palm, and a looped strap that runs around the outside of the hand, which can be tightened. The strap means you don’t actually have to grip the wand to keep a hold of the controller.
Losing your grip on (virtual) reality
In other words, you can either grip or fully let go, and your fingers are free to move and interact with objects in virtual reality. Multiple capacitive sensors are strategically positioned on the central wand to detect the curl of your fingers and thumb.
Knuckles is capable of detecting the position of your digits and how far they are curled around the controller they are. So as you can imagine, this is a far more sophisticated controller than the existing efforts for the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift headsets.
It’s getting a lot of people excited – ourselves included – at the potential extra dose of reality this could add to VR gaming.
Note that right now, the controller does need to be calibrated to the user’s fingers in order to be accurate, but this is a simple enough process, and Valve says that an ‘explicit calibration procedure’ is only a temporary measure for these prototypes. So it sounds like the finished version should just work out of the box, with any luck.