Any fan of virtual reality can tell you that the technology is anything but perfect at the moment. Even the best VR controllers can be unintuitive to use, and we're still quite a ways away from full-body motion tracking. This new Valve controllers could be an excellent step in the right direction however.
Codenamed 'Knuckles', these new controllers have been in development for some time now. Early prototypes were shown off at the Steam Dev Days conference back in October of last year, and Gabe Newell confirmed them in a Reddit AMA in January.
But details on how they might function have been sparse until now. Valve has just released quite a bit of new information about the controllers to their official Knuckles Steam group.
While current VR controllers are great at tracking basic hand movements, they can't track individual fingers. When you pick up an object with the HTC Vive, for example, you're either grasping it or you aren't - there's no in-between. This is fine for picking things up and tossing them around, but not much else.
Valve is seeking to remove this limitation through the use of "Cap Sense" - their term for the series of capacitive sensors they've installed throughout the controllers. These sensors can "detect the state of the user's hands". In other words, they're able to track the degree to which your fingers are curled or sticking straight out. Yes, this means you can make just about any hand gesture you can think of - obscene or otherwise.
To avoid the possibility of accidentally dropping the controller when you release your grip, Valve has installed a simple adjustable strap on both controllers. It tightens firmly around your hands, allowing you to move your fingers at will - without the fear of dropping precious (and potentially expensive) hardware.
Valve has started to ship the Knuckles controllers out to developers, but there's no word yet on when consumer versions of the device might be available.