Last week during the latest edition of Steam Dev Days, Valve revealed to the world a new VIVE controller prototype, showcasing an enthusiastic new system of hand grip-controlled tracking that will be actually mounted to the VR system user’s hand.
Although very few media houses were represented at this year’s Steam Dev Days event due to tight restrictions on media access, those who were able to attend mostly shared positive experiences of the latest VIVE controller, particularly pleased with the fact that it will be mounted to the user’s hand. With this new way of tracking, it’s possible to physically grip or release objects in virtual reality in an unprecedented smooth and natural motion, something which is very important given that letting go of a controller mid-throw would typically cause the dropping of TV and computer screens causing their destruction.
Valve’s brand new prototype seems to be a cut-down variant of HTC Vive’s default controller, something much of a necessary shift from the Oculus Touch’s quite ergonomic hand-hugging controller design. However, the latest controller prototypes still appear to retain the trackpad users are most familiar with, with three buttons located along the trackpad’s edge and a squeeze trigger on the opposite side.
The biggest move from earlier versions appears to be the contoured plastic band running along the VIVE controller’s backside which maintains the device nearer to the palm and enables users to release the main controller in entirety and thus let go of items in the game.
One thing that was not clear was whether controllers track your gripping hand as being closed only while the grip of the trigger is on or if there will be any extra sensors or buttons to hold down and notify the system when you want to clench your fist. But even without this being clear from the prototypes, the fact that Valve’s VIVE controllers enable users to grab items in virtual space much more actively is a big plus.
However, unless Valve actually makes gripping an object part of the handle by building controls for that into it instead of having this being activated via triggers like it is with the new prototypes, the American video game developer will most likely find it hard to market their new concept as it is right now to VR FPS users.
And, with the new prototype being covered in tracking sensors and appearing to have been 3D-printed, the gaming world will probably have a much longer period of waiting that earlier anticipated before Valve and HTC can actually create a fully-functioning dev kit, and even more for an actual product to sell to their consumers.
Everybody would definitely love to see the new VIVE controller in the market having even more features and functionalities than what has been revealed so far if anybody is going to have to buy an entirely new set of controllers. But for now, we’ve to agree that this is certainly an encouraging leap forward if only Valve can actualize their concept before Mark Zuckerberg and the team at Oculus can come up with another way to accomplish something similar by adapting their Touch controllers.