Valve Steam Controller has two trackpads, haptic feedback

Valve has lifted the lid on a new type of controller, with a touchscreen, trackpads, and buzzing feedback.

Valve has been busy this week. It's already unveiled a gaming PC and a whole operating system based around gaming , and now it's pulled back the curtain on a new controller to go with them.

Named the Steam Controller, it boasts two trackpads (which look a bit like big, staring eyes), which give you 'haptic' feedback as you play. For the uninitiated, haptic feedback is basically a little buzz, or vibration. It's used in some mobiles to let you know your press of an on-screen button has registered.

According to Valve's announcement page, the haptic feedback will be used to deliver various physical sensations to the player.

Here's how it works. Small, weighted electro-magnets are attached to each trackpad, and make them vibrate. This is supposed to give you info about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, and more. So run over rough ground, and it'll buzz a bit, I guess. 

Each trackpad is clickable, so the entire surface acts as a button. According to Valve, the trackpads "allow far higher fidelity input" than traditional handheld controllers. In other words, the Steam Controller should be just as accurate as your trusty keyboard and mouse combo.

The trackpads also double as speakers, which is quite cool. Well it beats wearing a headset, anyway.

In between the trackpads is a clickable touchscreen. This could be used for a scrolling menu, map, or more secondary uses, just like the one on the Wii U 's controller.

The Steam Controller is symmetrical, so you can configure it for left- or right-handers. Half of the 16 buttons are reachable without taking your thumbs off the trackpads. And it'll work with all games on Steam (older titles will be tricked into thinking it's a keyboard and mouse).

"Traditional gamepads force us to accept compromises," Valve said. "We've made it a goal to improve upon the resolution and fidelity of input that's possible with those devices.

"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."

The controller is set for release next year. But you could be one of 300 lucky people to test it early, if you sign up for the same scheme as the Steam Machine -- check here to see if you're eligible, then join the Steam Universe group and agree to the terms and conditions.

What do you think? Is it enough to tempt you away from your keyboard and mouse? Let me know in the comments, or steer yourself over to our Facebook page.

About the author

    Joe has been writing about consumer tech for nearly seven years now, but his liking for all things shiny goes back to the Gameboy he received aged eight (and that he still plays on at family gatherings, much to the annoyance of his parents). His pride and joy is an Infocus projector, whose 80-inch picture elevates movie nights to a whole new level.

     

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