Developer Plays Oculus And Steam Games With Valve’s Knuckles Controllers

by Ian Hamilton • August 17th, 2017

Valve is developing a pair of more immersive hand controllers currently called “Knuckles” that promise to offer more precise finger tracking and grasping sensations in VR. Though the controllers are still in a prototype phase and likely to change, Valve released early versions to developers over the last few months and interest is high to see how they can be used to make virtual worlds more immersive.

Last month Denny Unger from Cloudhead, the studio behind The Gallery, shared some thoughts based on his hands-on experience with the controllers and over the last several weeks Climbey developer Brian Lindenhof has been testing the controllers in a variety of virtual worlds from both the Oculus store and Steam.  I asked Lindenhof over direct message whether, even in this prototype state, he prefers Knuckles to the Oculus Touch or the Vive wands.

“Definitely the Knuckles,” he wrote.

The controllers fit around the palm of your hand and strap in snugly behind your knuckles. You pull a short cord to tighten the fit. Initially, Lindenhof noted the controllers could get slightly uncomfortable after a few hours and pinch his hand just a bit. Now he says he’s “grown more used to them” and doesn’t feel the pinching anymore.

“[I] regularly play with them until they drop dead now,” Lindenhof wrote. “Which is 3-4 hours currently.”

That is just one developer’s opinion at this point but that sort of rigorous use and preference for the hardware even in a prototype state bodes very well for Valve’s efforts to push immersion further than Facebook’s Oculus Touch controllers. It sounds like the current controllers are great for simulating the feeling of grasping and releasing objects with handles requiring several fingers, but pinching an object between just your index finger and thumb might not be ideal yet. In other words, it may be perfect for grasping a bow or a cup’s handle but picking up a spoon from a drawer with just two fingers may not feel exactly like the real world.

The developer behind the Revive hack which lets people access Oculus store games with an HTC Vive headset reportedly also received the controllers, and Lindenhof has been using the hack in both Lone Echo and Echo Arena, two Oculus exclusive titles. He’s been recording his experience and thoughts at length on his YouTube channel and shared a few of the videos with us.

Check them out:

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What's your reaction?

    this is cool and all but I want a higher quality HMD so distant objects don’t suffer from the lower res screens.

    • wheeler

      That’s already coming. But we need consistent improvements on all fronts. Valve’s new SteamVR knuckles controllers and upgraded lighthouses look pretty dope to me.

      • Smokey_the_Bear

        upgraded light houses mean nothing to me, they are cheaper to build, which should lower the price of them in the future…that is it.

        • Chris Van Loo

          not only, you’ll be able to use multiple lighthouses , if you have a lot of them you’ll be able to track huge spaces, not really interesting for home use but if you got the space, this should be cool!

  • Robert Cole

    Yes. Screen resolution is critical. I’ve been impressed with Quad HD 534ppi on Daydream/Pixel XL, I’ve demoed Vive and Rift since (I’ve owned 2 Vive), the lower spec screen is noticeable despite PC VR horsepower?

    At least Quad HD for 2nd generation?

    • Crunchy005

      PC horsepower can’t overcome a hardware limitation, to be fair I don’t notice the lower res issues at all once I’m in and playing a game(unless i have to read a lot of text). Apparently Super scaling helps a little bit, but my 970 can’t really do that on most games(need that VEGA 56).

      • Robert Cole

        Text and video playback is where it’s really noticeable, SDE is somewhat reduced too.

        Supersampling on the Vive was a must have, but brutal performance cost even running oc gtx1070

  • MrWyzurd

    It’s exciting, but the vive is really getting out of control cost wise. It’s currently $799, I’m sure these controllers are in the $200 area, and if you want wireless it’s another $250 for a grand total of $1249. Compare that to the rift where $400 gets you comparable controllers (although you need to add $59 for a third sensor, which it really does need), and a wireless option should be out near the end of the year for $250-ish.

    • wheeler

      I agree that the Vive is overpriced and should ship with the new headstrap. LG can’t enter the market soon enough.

      But I don’t think you should include optional perks like the wireless and knuckles controller peripherals into the price of the Vive as if their existence were somehow making the Vive even more overpriced than it already is. They’re by no means necessary and there existence is only a positive for people with the means to purchase them. It reminds me of when console gamers price out high end PC specs in failed attempts to demonstrate the cost difference between consoles and PCs.

      If HTC can reduce the Vive’s price to $600 it will be quite competitive with the post-sale $500 Rift (or $550 with a third sensor). Future HMDs like the LG will likely include the knuckles controllers by default or allow users to individually select which parts they want. They’d be insane not to e.g. offer the HMD on its own for the market that just wants the upgrade to a gen 1.5 HMD.

    • John Phelan

      Wireless? do you have wireless… i cant find this anywhere for sale…wasent it only for a limited time and only in china?

      • MrWyzurd

        TPCast was just cleared by the FCC. If you can’t wait, some people over at /r/vive have had luck purchasing the unit on Alibaba.

    • flashmozzg

      Vive is 200$ cheaper now.

  • polysix

    still using shitty touchpads instead of analog sticks. They’ll never be ‘better’ than oculus touch while they don’t have those great little sticks for things. Not to mention they are running on Vive, the most overpriced and shittiest (ergonomics and SDE wise) of the big 3. (and Yes I’ve owned them all )

    • Crunchy005

      Ergonomics are fine on the vive. The wands are better than the touch controllers for any games involving shooting(which is a lot!). I actually prefer the touchpads over a joystick for VR games, on my steam controller they are useless for First Person shooter games, but in VR you don’t need to spin yourself around with the touchpad you just turn around(although this may not apply to Oculus if you only have 2 sensors, or 1…).

      • MrWyzurd

        I like the joysticks more than the touch pad. I think the touch is fine for shooting, with the exception that most touch games require you to hold the grip button instead of toggle, which is dumb.

      • Warren Colvett

        Yeah… Uh no. The Touch feels a lot more intuitive and comfortable as a pistol grip.

        • Crunchy005

          Not how I feel, and not how a lot of reviewers felt either. Touch is great, but I don’t think it’s the better pistol grip.

          • svartalf

            I honestly don’t know where you’re coming from on that score, having tried both- they both have positives and negatives. I can assuredly tell you that you’ve probably never fired a lot of firearms if you think that the Vive’s wands are better “pistol” grips- and the “reviewers” that you mention very readily never have either. It’s not like those Nerf guns out there, folks.

    • Ståhej

      I prefer the touchpads. I was sceptical at first because of my experience from touchpads from laptops but the pads on the wands are amazing!

  • Very cool.
    The hand grip is what “scares” me about this controllers. You can get used to the pinch, but surely the hand is not happy to be grasped for hours…

  • chienDISQ

    I thought the latency would be less noticeable.