There's a lot of excitement surrounding Valve's upcoming handheld PC, the Steam Deck. The Steam Deck will launch in December 2021 as a completely standalone device, however, it'll be compatible with a number of docks, adaptors, and controllers. It begs the question as to whether Valve will be releasing its own Steam Deck controller, akin to the Nintendo Switch's Pro Controller. A newly published Valve patent indicates just that, as well as a very exciting new controller feature.
The patent, published September 9, shows a graphic featuring a stripped-down Steam Controller with two offset joysticks, a trackpad, and four controller buttons. Imagine the Xbox controller only with the joysticks on each side swapped to be lower/higher. The controller also has two shoulder buttons on each side, as well as three buttons at its center. The lack of a d-pad is a curious choice, but Valve has shown confidence in its upper-left trackpad before with the original Steam Controller.
As for the specific intent of the patent, it's regarding a unique motion controls detection feature. More specifically, it's a patent for a finger-detection system that would allow for finger movement to activate certain motion control features. For example, a touch sensor that could sense the proximity of the user's finger and would use that data to then display the controller user's hand in different configurations in-game.
This type of feature isn't entirely new. Virtual reality controllers use a similar feature. Resting fingers on several buttons in some games will hold the player's in-game hands in a fist, while removing them from the buttons will open the hand or extend fingers. Pressing buttons can then create in-game hand gestures.
However, what Valve appears to want to do is much more in-depth. It's unlikely to be implementing hand gestures, of course. Rather, a more useful function would be, say, the opposite of a button push. For example, holding down a button opens a menu, but also removing a finger from that same button could open a different menu. Or, perhaps more simply, pressing a button uses a basic type of grenade, but can be augmented for different grenade types depending on another finger's positioning.
The most significant problem with a Steam controller is that games made for PC don't always work with controllers. Valve, to its credit, created a better controller for the PC experience. It was unfortunately not a huge success, but that doesn't mean Valve stopped its efforts. This new patent could offer a glimpse at the next iteration of Valve's plans for the Steam Controller and the Steam Deck.
Valve's Steam Deck releases in December. No new Steam Controller has been announced.
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