A new patent has appeared for a new design of Valve’s VR controllers.
Valve’s VR product is called the Valve Index. Originally release in 2019, it comes on the more expensive side at $ 999, but also offers some of the most advanced technology available in the VR space.
The Valve Index Controllers themselves show Valve’s inclusive and unique way of thinking about controllers and interfaces. They feature a full slate of traditional control inputs, including buttons, triggers, and analog sticks for both hands.
They also have a trackpad like button. This is conceptually the same trackpad input technology they originally revealed for the Steam Link controller, and is also on the Steam Deck. On top of this, the grips themselves are treated as inputs
As for haptics, the controllers feature 87 sensors to capture every nuance of your hand motion, including tracking your individual fingers. The technology is designed so you can duplicate natural hand motions, like dropping or throwing objects.
While Valve reported selling 149,000 units of the headsets upon its 2019 launch, making it an immediate sell out, their VR hardware encountered huge setbacks due to supply issues during the pandemic. It’s likely Valve could have gotten these controllers into more hands if that hadn’t happened, but now they seem ready to move on.
The new patent does show a very similar controller, but the description now mentions what is referred to as a ‘hand strap adjuster’. The image shared with the patent does not appear to have hand straps, so it’s possible the adjuster allows the straps to be stowed away within the controller.
The visible new addition to the controller, are a set of lights that form a ring around the circular edge at the top of the controller. Lighting is an easy thing to use for tracking, so it’s highly likely that these additions are intended to make tracking easier, but also possibly, cheaper. Given the manufacturing issues mentioned above, it’s also possible that the changes are intended to make manufacturing a new batch of controllers easier, bypassing parts that are harder to source.
As the world still flounders with economic issues, the video game and tech industries have started to feel its effects, and the VR industry is no different. In fact, given the limited reach of what is expensive technology out of reach for most gamers, mass adoption was a concern before the pandemic.
This new patent seems to be Valve looking to make moves to speed that mass adoption along. News may come of a comparatively cheaper VR Index from Valve not soon before long.