Valve developing biometric game controller, Newell confirms

Studio not convinced by motion control: 'We cannot see how it makes games fundamentally better'

PC games kingpin Valve is developing a controller that measures the player's state through biometric data, the company's president has confirmed.


Gabe Newell said that one of the important factors in developing a games controller would be "higher precision and lower latency".

In an interview with The Verge, he added: "I think you'll see controllers coming from us that use a lot of biometric data".

Providing a glimpse into the kind of user interface philosophies that Valve is attempting, Newell envisioned a scenario where a player would "pick up a controller and Big Picture comes on" the TV.

Newell also said that motion control was something considered by Valve, but has failed to inspire the studio.

"We've struggled for a long time to try to think of ways to use motion input and we really haven't [found any]," he said.

"Wii Sports is still kind of the pinnacle of that. We look at that, and for us at least, as a games developer, we can't see how it makes games fundamentally better. On the controller side, the stuff we're thinking of is kind of super boring stuff all around latency and precision.

"We think that, unlike motion input where we kind of struggled to come up with ideas, [there's potential in] biometrics."

He concluded: "Maybe the motion stuff is just failure of imagination on our part, but we're a lot more excited about biometrics as an input method. Motion just seems to be a way of [thinking] of your body as a set of communication channels. Your hands, and your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth - so to trying to talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying 'oh we're going to stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up'."

In 2009, three Valve employees submitted a patent for a games controller, specifying that the pad had versatile input sockets that could be plugged in with analogue sticks, d-pads and other such input tools.

Elsewhere in the interview - Newell also confirmed work is underway on the so-called Steam Box.

"We'll come out with our own [TV console] and we'll sell it to consumers by ourselves," he said.

"That'll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We're not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination."