Valve unveils touchpad/touchscreen-enabled Steam Controller for living room

Valve logoAs expected, the third of this week's trio of Steam-related announcements from Valve is a new controller designed to be used with SteamOS in the living room. And from what Valve has revealed, this isn't a mere copy of the now practically default dual-stick design, but a new kind of controller that will even work with PC games designed for a mouse and keyboard.

Where the two thumbsticks sit on a traditional gamepad, Valve's controller has a pair of circular, textured, concave, high-resolution, clickable trackpads that allow for "far higher fidelity input than has previously been possible with traditional handheld controllers" that "approaches that of a desktop mouse," Valve said.

"Traditional gamepads force us to accept compromises. We’ve made it a goal to improve upon the resolution and fidelity of input that’s possible with those devices," Valve wrote in its announcement. "The Steam controller offers a new and, we believe, vastly superior control scheme, all while enabling you to play from the comfort of your sofa."

To make up for what Valve called a lack of physicality in the touchpads (at least compared to thumbsticks) the company has built in what it is calling "a new generation of super-precise haptic feedback" that it said goes well beyond the mere "rumble" of current handheld controllers. These haptics will create "a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement."

Valve unveils touchpad/touchscreen-enabled Steam Controller for living room

In addition, the center of the pad is a high-resolution touchscreen that Valve said is "critical to achieving the controller’s primary goal—supporting all games in the Steam catalog." This touchscreen will allow players to select from any number of commands on the screen (or swipe through pages of commands) and then click the touchscreen to activate their choice. Game developers who want their games to work with this new portion of the controller will have access to an API when the prototypes ship to beta testers later this year.

In a novel twist, touching the screen on the controller will bring up an overlay on the monitor showing what is happening on the touchscreen, so players won't have to divide their attention between two displays.

Of course, there are standard buttons on the Steam Controller as well: 16 in all, with eight that can be pushed without removing the thumbs from the touchpads. In addition to four shoulder buttons, the controller features two "back buttons" on the inner edge of the curved rear of the controller that look like they're meant to be pushed with the middle through pinky fingers. The face of the controller features three menu-like buttons below the touchpad areas and four action buttons toward the center, adjacent to the touchscreen, which require reaching the thumbs up and past the touchpad areas.

A "legacy mode" will allow the controller to emulate a mouse and keyboard setup on all Steam games, and players will be able to download from sets of configurations shared by other players to avoid the hassle of having to set up each game separately.

Valve made it very clear that this new controller won't be required to play any Steam games; you can still use another controller or a mouse and keyboard to play your PC games, even on SteamOS.

Source: Ars Technica

Tags: Valve, Valve

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