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Valve shows devs new hands-like Vive controller

The controllers for HTC's VR device let users mimic more natural hand motions, say developers who tried them.

Valve showed off new controllers at a developer conference.
Courtesy of Max Weisel/NormalVR

Valve has made your hands even more important to the HTC Vive virtual-reality experience.

Valve on Wednesday showed off new controller prototypes to developers at its Steam Dev Days conference in Seattle. Valve spokesman Doug Lombardi said the company is seeking the feedback of developers and declined to share further details.

One person who saw the controllers, Max Weisel of VR researcher NormalVR, posted on his Twitter page @mxweas that the new controller "was really cool. Much closer to having hands in VR [versus] holding a tool."

He told CNET the demo Valve showed was a campfire with objects you could pick up. Rather than seeing the controllers in virtual reality, you see hand models, making the experience feel even more real.

"The benefit of the [existing] controller is that it feels like you're holding a tool," he said. "Designers can shape their game so the bottom half of tools in the game match up with the controller. But with hands, it feels more like you're just using your hands to do things."

Virtual reality has the ability to transport you to new worlds, but the industry is still figuring out how to make it feel more natural. HTC's Vive, which costs $799, was the first consumer device to let users see their hands while in VR. The current controllers let you grab things, but the controllers themselves are more like a wand that you hold. The new prototype controllers give you a more natural feel to reach out and grab things.

Eva Hoerth, a VR developer evangelist, said on her Twitter page @downtohoerth that she's "never gotten this excited over hardware." She said the new controllers will make VR more accessible and "adopted by those that need a more intuitive form of input -- free of confusing buttons." She also said it will force developers to design natural interactions.

Weisel said Valve engineers called the new controllers a thought experiment to see how hands feel in VR versus regular controllers. It's unclear if the new controllers will ever be released to the public.

Kotaku earlier reported the news.

Update at 12:30 p.m. PT with comment from Valve.