Valve second-gen VR controllers head to developers with squeeze-input

Back in 2016, Valve debuted its vertically oriented "Knuckles" controller for use with SteamVR. The device remains exclusive to developers, but a new EV2 model has just been unveiled with a number of refinements that translate to improved controls in a VR environment, including new sensors that detect finger movement and grip strength.

The EV2 maintains the original controller's design of using a strap to connect it to the hand, allowing users to open their fingers and let go without dropping it. The top section, which users reach with their thumb, has seen some of the biggest changes: the original circular touchpad — which was borrowed from the Steam Controller — has been replaced with a smaller "Track Button." This acts as a thumb-shaped trackpad with the ability to detect touch and force, while the extra space goes to a set of traditional buttons and an analog joystick.

Colin Northway, one of the first developers to receive an EV2 controller, shared a picture comparing the new version (on the left) to the original.

The first Knuckles controller was able to detect when individual fingers were touching the handle portion, allowing players to easily and naturally pick up objects in VR. The EV2 adds pressure sensitivity to this, which, Valve explains, can enable interactions like gripping, squeezing, and throwing in-game objects.

There's still no plans to release the controllers for consumers, sadly, but the kits sent to developers include a cool new demo set in the Portal universe. Titled Moondust, the demo shows off all the new abilities of the EV2, like throwing and crushing rocks, picking up and connecting small components to build a space station, and driving a small rover buggy around the environment.