Valve’s final mystery revealed: a trackpad-based controller with an integrated touchscreen and haptic feedback

touchpadThere’s the Valve we know and love.  After the somewhat blasé announcement of the SteamOS and Steam Boxes, Valve have finally delivered a real surprise–a unique, innovative gamepad that that obviously and immediately distinguishes itself from the rest of the pack.

How?  Well, let’s walk through it:

  • Dual trackpad inputs–Instead of the dual sticks we’re used to, the Steam controller is going to feature two trackpads for the players thumbs. According to Valve, this allows the controller to emulate the precision of a mouse and keyboard, and even spoof those inputs for games that aren’t controller-enabled.  This *could* be a revolution in gamepad design.  Or it could be a complete flop. We won’t know until we get our hands on it.
  • Haptic feedback–The Steam controller’s trackpads will be able to respond to what Valve calls ” in-game information about speed, boundaries, thresholds, textures, action confirmations, or any other events about which game designers want players to be aware.”  We’ve been waiting for haptic feedback for a while now, it’s about time we start feeling it out for ourselves!
  • Touch Screen–Taking a page out of  SEGA’s book, the Steam Controller will have a display screen located between the players thumbs.  Unlike the good ol’ Dreamcast, however, this screen will be high-resolution and touch sensitive.  In fact, the screen itself is a large button, meaning you won’t have to worry about ruining your game when you brush your thumb over the screen. Valve also promises some usability features, like overlaying the touch-screen on the game display when the controller detects your finger on the screen.
  • Hackability–The Steam controller is designed to be hacked, and Valve has promised to put out tools to make the Steam Controller usable to every field “from industrial design to electrical engineering.”

If this controller is everything it purports to be–and that is a very big if–we could be looking at the next major advancement in game controls.  We’re going to have to wait a while to get our hands on it, though.  It’s going to be part of the Steam Box open beta, and so it probably won’t be in your living room until sometime in 2014.

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