A Steam Controller, which also kind of looks like an owl. A startled owl.
This is Valve’s attempt to “bridge the gap from the desk to the living room without compromises”. A mouse and keyboard have always been the input method of choice for many Steam players, which is why Valve has spent a long time (a full year) coming up with this new controller.
Obviously, the most prominent features of the controller are those two trackpads in the place of traditional controller thumbsticks. According to Valve the trackpads’ “resolution approaches that of a desktop mouse”. The trackpads are also clickable, so they act as two massive buttons. That, however, isn’t really the coolest part: the trackpads have some pretty slick haptic feedback thanks to “dual linear resonant actuators”. Yeah, I also have no idea what that means, but it sounds fancy. Anyway, the trackpads and their fancy haptic technology will be “capable of delivering a wide range of force and vibration, allowing precise control over frequency, amplitude, and direction of movement.” Basically, developers are going to be able to utilise varying degrees of tactile vibrations and wave forms to channel information into your thumbs. We’re guessing it’s one of those things that needs to be experienced in order to truly appreciate the feature.
You also may have noticed the touchscreen in the middle of the controller. This little screen will have myriad applications, but Valve is being clever and eliminating the biggest issue with dual-screen gaming: taking your eyes off the main screen to look at the smaller, controller screen (we’re looking at you, Wii U). They’re getting around this issue by overlaying the touchscreen image onto the main TV screen the moment a user touches the controller’s touchscreen. And yes, the entire touchscreen is also clickable.
The Steam Controller has a total of sixteen buttons. Below is a mapping layout for Portal 2, just to illustrate what this thing is capable of.
And in keeping with the Steam OS and Steam Machine ethos, the Steam Controller is open and entirely hackable.