Valve 'Knuckles' controllers — Everything you need to know!

by admin July 4, 2017 at 11:50 pm

Valve’s newest VR controllers, what are being called Knuckles, are fully-tracked motion controllers with a new design and a few neat tricks. Here’s everything you need to know about them.

Valve’s newest controllers are taking things in an interesting direction; they are immediately familiar but have quite a few new features and a new way to attach to your hands. If you’re wondering what they’re all about, we have everything you need to know.

What’s new with Valve Knuckles controllers?

A June 19 SteamVR Home update brought DLC with firmware, images, and render models of the Knuckles controllers.

Visit the SteamVR Knuckles group

How do I get Valve Knuckles controllers?

Only some select developers hand-picked by Valve have been lucky enough to receive the Knuckles controllers. The rest of us will have to wait until further notice.

What are Valve Knuckles controllers?

A first glimpse of the Knuckles prototype was seen at Steam Dev Days 2016. One of the major areas of focus was the fact that you could let go of the controller without it dropping to the floor or to hang by the safety cord. Also included with the design was finger tracking, something Oculus Touch controllers have had from the start.

Since the first look, Valve has been hard at work refining the design, and now it appears they’re getting serious about their product. Developer kits have been sent out, and a Steam Community Knuckles group has been created.

How do Knuckles controllers attach to your hand?

Much like Oculus Touch controllers, there is a band that loops around the back of your hand near your knuckles. Whereas the band on Touch controllers is static, the Knuckles controllers have an adjustable strap built in. You slip your hand through and hold the controller naturally, pull the cord on the bottom of the controller, and everything tightens down.

Attaching to your hand

Once the strap is tightened over your hand, you can let go of the controller without having it drop.

How do Knuckles controllers track motion?

Not only will the Knuckles controllers track the motion of your hands with outside sensors like the Vive’s Lighthouses, they will also track the movement of your individual fingers using built-in touch capacitors.

Touch tracking diagram

As you can see here, there are three sensors in the grip for your middle, ring, and pinky fingers. The triggers on the back of the controllers will handle your index fingers, while the trackpad and face buttons on the front will read your thumbs.

Because the controller can’t drop if you let it go, you’ll really feel like you’re picking things up in the virtual world by completely opening and closing your hand.

How many buttons do Knuckles controllers have?

The part of the Knuckles controller that sits in your hand is actually quite similar to the Vive’s original wands. You have a large trackpad for your thumb, a couple of face buttons on either side, and a system button below. Each controller also has a trigger on the back.

If you think the Vive wands are a bit big and clunky, the Knuckles controllers are quite a bit smaller and fit much more naturally into your hand.

How do you calibrate finger tracking on Knuckles controllers?

Instead of having to take off your head-mounted display and access settings via your computer, all you have to do to calibrate the finger tracking on a Knuckles controller is close your hand completely on the controller — with each finger on its respective sensor — then open it and hold it there for one second. The software takes care of the rest.

This is all it takes to calibrate finger tracking

Do Knuckles controllers work with existing hardware and software?

As an extension of the core HTC Vive hardware, the Knuckle controllers will work with all existing hardware. Like the original wands, Knuckle controllers are compatible with any revision of the HTC Vive headset and use the same base stations for tracking.

Previously-developed software will also be useable with the new controllers. Valve is set to offer a feature that emulates the wand controllers, by mapping similar buttons onto the new hardware.

How do you pair Knuckles controllers with SteamVR?

If you have your hands on a pair of these new controllers, all you have to do to pair them is run through the normal Pair Controller setup in the Devices menu of SteamVR. Note that you must opt into the SteamVR beta in order for Knuckles controllers to pair properly.

How long do the batteries last in Knuckles controllers?

You should be able to get about three hours of use on a single charge. Like the Vive wands, the Knuckles controllers use a USB micro-B connector for the rechargeable battery. It takes approximately one hour to get a full charge from completely dead.

What do the lights on Knuckles controllers mean?

LED color diagram

A small LED makes an appearance on each controller to help you determine its state. The Vive’s wands also have a LED, but here some of the colors signify different states.

Are Knuckles controllers ambidextrous?

Like the original Vive wands, the Knuckles controllers have the same buttons on each device. Whereas you could pick up either Vive wand for your right hand, the Knuckles controllers, because of their strap, will need to be placed on a specific hand. From there on out, you’ll be able to use either for your dominant hand.

How well do Knuckles controllers adapt to different hand sizes?

As explained by VR developer Cloudhead Games, the existing Knuckle controller prototypes account for differing hand sizes. While larger hands may find the controller tight and smaller hands may struggle to reach the top of the trackpad, the fit should account for most players.

Is there a video of Knuckles controllers in action?

Indeed there is. This video from Zulubo Productions provides us with a good idea of just how awesome these controllers are going to be.

What comes in the box with Knuckles controllers?

While retail units don’t currently exist, VR developers are already receiving development kits for Knuckle controllers from Valve. As showcased by Vertigo Games, the developer behind Arizona Sunshine, the current prototypes come in bare packaging, alongside the essentials. While this is sure to change for the public release, you can still see the controllers in the flesh below, straight out of the packaging.

Updated July 4, 2017: Added new information learned from Cloudhead Game’s FAQ, hosted on reddit.

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