During CES in January I tried a pair of controllers called “etee” that were lightweight with finger-sensing features. As I held them in my hands, a laptop screen showed which gestures and movements the controllers recognized.
The lightweight controllers recognized each of my fingers and my grip — even tight squeezing — but they wouldn’t recognize if I spread my fingers out and moved a couple of them vertically up and down along the base of the controller — so no “live long and prosper” hand signals here. That’s not a common movement, so not likely to be a big deal, but what is a big deal is they lack a physical trigger.
They’re seeking nearly $57,000 on Kickstarter to bring the controllers to fruition during the COVID-19 pandemic. An early bird pledge of around $297 promises a pair of the controllers with a “bespoke” SteamVR Tracker included and estimated delivery of December 2020. While that should add 6DoF tracking to the controllers, it is also slightly more than it costs to buy a pair of Index Controllers which have the backing of Valve and either indirect or direct support in most VR games on Steam.
The etee controllers should ship with software tools for developers to use and, according to the group behind the project, they will include “the ability to bind etee finger sensing and other control surface inputs to those of traditional SteamVR controls via the embedded SteamVR UI” and they say etee can “connect to the full range of SteamVR games and applications that are already available.”
That’s a big claim and one we haven’t directly tested to see how it holds up in some popular VR games. As noted above, the hands-on time was just via a 2D screen. The image below from the company’s Kickstarter page shows the way the input from the controllers should be able to be customized.
Every other major controller on the market includes a physical trigger and the vast majority of VR software is built around this fundamental input mechanism. How exactly major games play with the customized input is an open question.
The Kickstarter project raised nearly $10,000 toward its goal at the time of this writing. Hardware Kickstarters, however, are notoriously risky ventures and we should note that even companies like Valve and Facebook have been struck by production problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.