Four-Year-Old Patent May Hint At Valve's Next Announcement

Four-Year-Old Patent May Hint At Valve's Next Announcement

Valve controller patent

The secret of Valve's third big Steam living room announcement may have been revealed in a patent that was filed four years ago.

With two out of three of Valve's big "living room" announcements out of the way, all eyes now turn to the third and final secret, set to be revealed on Friday. But it's possible that Valve has already tipped its hand, thanks to a patent application for a "Video game controller having user swappable control components" that was filed back in November 2009.

"A game controller is provided. One or more main control input interfaces on the game controller consist of generalized sockets," the patent abstract states. "A variety of modular input interfaces can be plugged into these sockets. Hardware specific to the input type of the modular input is contained within the modular input itself, and plugged in via an interface. This allows for dual analog sticks, a combination of analog and trackball, or further any combination of touchpad, directional pad, or additional components."

Speculation that a controller will be the final piece of Valve's puzzle is driven by a few factors. The patent filing, for one, and the fact that it's a rather natural progression: OS, box, controller. In January, Valve big bopper Gabe Newell specifically mentioned "a controller that has higher precision and lower latency" while talking about Valve's internal plans for a Steam box, and the Steam hardware beta announced today states very plainly, "Valve Corporation... has developed and produced prototypes of entertainment system hardware and software, including a set-top box running custom software and a game controller (collectively: 'Beta Products')."

We won't have to wait very long to find out, as the final Steam countdown is 44 hours and change from hitting zero, but in the meantime, while we wait with nothing better to do, I think this makes a pretty compelling argument. Are you convinced?

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Wait, is that the actual picture of the actual controller? It's worse than the original xbox monstrosity! I'm excited for the steambox, but I hope there's a variety of controllers to choose from, since I don't have hands the size of Yao Ming's. The idea of a modular controller is really cool, and it has a lot of promise (Imagine a joystick attachment for flight sims or old school arcade games!) but what I look for in a controller, first and foremost, is comfort. The gamecube and PS2/PS3 controllers are my favorite so far, with Xbox 360's a little behind that.

I'm calling dibs on the dual track-ball setup.

bazaalmon:
Wait, is that the actual picture of the actual controller? It's worse than the original xbox monstrosity! I'm excited for the steambox, but I hope there's a variety of controllers to choose from, since I don't have hands the size of Yao Ming's.

i think you're overestimating how big that is, my little brother uses the xbox 360 controller just fine as a 6 year old, i'm sure your hands are much more capable of holding the "steam" controller, whatever they want to call it.

still, i'm glad someone is finally implementing more buttons and getting rid of the d-pad, most games never use it or don't use it well.

Andy Chalk:
a combination of analog and trackball

I came. A controller that can have a trackball in it for aiming? I could walk around with an analog stick and aim with a mouse from the same device? Even if this isn't the last announcement, someone make this happen and I will give you money for it.

Can this patent even go through, I mean other companies are already making these...
But anyway it would be good to get more competition going on that and more importantly new standards that support a more flexible setup.

bazaalmon:
Wait, is that the actual picture of the actual controller?

Patent filings rarely have accurate drawings as they're primarily for demonstrative purposes.

Also, this has been the rumoured announcement some 5000 times. Not only does that mean it may not be the announcement, but also that the appearance might have further changed.

Still, modular would be nice. If they can make it cheap and reliable.

bazaalmon:
Wait, is that the actual picture of the actual controller? It's worse than the original xbox monstrosity! I'm excited for the steambox, but I hope there's a variety of controllers to choose from, since I don't have hands the size of Yao Ming's. The idea of a modular controller is really cool, and it has a lot of promise (Imagine a joystick attachment for flight sims or old school arcade games!) but what I look for in a controller, first and foremost, is comfort. The gamecube and PS2/PS3 controllers are my favorite so far, with Xbox 360's a little behind that.

It's not a picture of the actual controller. It's an artistic representation of what the final product might look like.

Don't take anything in patents as what the physical product will look like. They're never more than "kinda" accurate.

lefties will be satisfied.

and considering it is open for modification they will sure as hell try to aplly it to any other gaming device once they figure out how they work.

As an ambidextrous person, I think it would be awesome to play fighting games with a double d-pad setup, so here's hoping?

*sigh* Well we knew something along the lines of this and what's been announced were going to happen. I guess i still had some fools hope we would get some Half Life news.... yeh yeh i know, feel free to laugh at me.

Welcome to 2013, where speculation and news have become synonymous.

Be interested to see what the announcement actually is. Honestly wouldn't be surprised if it was a controller, although I would be a bit disappointed.

Andy Chalk:
I think this makes a pretty compelling argument. Are you convinced?

Given that this is essentially what I was talking about in your previous news post about the Steambox, yes. I'm convinced.

However, I'm starting to wonder if the next announcement will include more than just the reveal of the controller. Perhaps Valve will also reveal a device that utilizes their eye-tracking, VR, AR, or biometric feedback technology. Or, maybe they'll announcement some co-venture with the Oculus Rift people.

Or it could indeed be a reveal of Source 2 and a game. Who knows?

I just know I can't wait for Friday to find out.

And for the first time ever there is equal low level HID driver support for Windows, OS X and Linux in sight.

A track ball on a controller? Preposterous! Controllers aren't any good for shooters!
But now they will be. If this is their next thing, I'll definitely get one!

Andy Chalk:

"A game controller is provided. One or more main control input interfaces on the game controller consist of generalized sockets," the patent abstract states. "A variety of modular input interfaces can be plugged into these sockets. Hardware specific to the input type of the modular input is contained within the modular input itself, and plugged in via an interface."

I'm sorry, isn't this something that has already existed in several other iterations in the past?

How the hell can Valve hold a patent for something that already exists?

Scrythe:

Andy Chalk:

"A game controller is provided. One or more main control input interfaces on the game controller consist of generalized sockets," the patent abstract states. "A variety of modular input interfaces can be plugged into these sockets. Hardware specific to the input type of the modular input is contained within the modular input itself, and plugged in via an interface."

I'm sorry, isn't this something that has already existed in several other iterations in the past?

How the hell can Valve hold a patent for something that already exists?

You know those random patent cases that occasionally come up about already widely used things? Basically that, only with valve actually acting on the creation of the thing rather than just suing people to get money.

ot: I remember when I first saw this patent, I was really damn excited for a controller that could be customized. Lets just hope the actual shell of the controller fits well in the hand.

uchytjes:

Scrythe:

Andy Chalk:

"A game controller is provided. One or more main control input interfaces on the game controller consist of generalized sockets," the patent abstract states. "A variety of modular input interfaces can be plugged into these sockets. Hardware specific to the input type of the modular input is contained within the modular input itself, and plugged in via an interface."

I'm sorry, isn't this something that has already existed in several other iterations in the past?

How the hell can Valve hold a patent for something that already exists?

You know those random patent cases that occasionally come up about already widely used things? Basically that, only with valve actually acting on the creation of the thing rather than just suing people to get money.

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you're saying here. Valve's patent is four years old. I just posted three controllers that have been around since the early 2000's. This isn't a case of Valve squatting on a patent and not enforcing legal action when others copy them, this is a case of them somehow having a patent on a product that has existed sometime before Valve filed theirs.

This would be like me walking into the patent office today and claiming I invented a controller with two joysticks.

rhizhim:
lefties will be satisfied.

and considering it is open for modification they will sure as hell try to aplly it to any other gaming device once they figure out how they work.

And HOW. My left hand is shaking in anticipation. I hope they rework a fair bit of that diagram but otherwise it looks rather nice. And...hopefully it's not huge either, my dainty little lady fingers could not handle the xbox controller when it launched. [insert innuendos here]

And a track ball... yisssssssszzzzzzz I hope it works well... I really do.

Trackball? I can see that being pretty danged amazing for shooters. If it's got a high enough DPI and you can set the sensitivity high enough (and, of course, if it can act as a mouse instead of a weird joystick, like certain PS3 and 360 controllers I've heard of), this might finally be a controller that can compete on equal footing with a mouse and keyboard.

mjc0961:

Andy Chalk:
a combination of analog and trackball

I came. A controller that can have a trackball in it for aiming? I could walk around with an analog stick and aim with a mouse from the same device? Even if this isn't the last announcement, someone make this happen and I will give you money for it.

http://revolvecontroller.com/

There. Now give me money

On topic, while I was expecting a controller, holy shit a modular one would be awesome. And it makes perfect sense given Valve's whole "you can change any part of the hardware" philosophy they seem to be taking with this whole project.

Prepare for the Gabecube.

I still think it's going to be Source 2.

mjc0961:

Andy Chalk:
a combination of analog and trackball

I came. A controller that can have a trackball in it for aiming? I could walk around with an analog stick and aim with a mouse from the same device? Even if this isn't the last announcement, someone make this happen and I will give you money for it.

Yes, if they put out a Valve-backed trackball controller it's gonna be the most game changing reveal. Console gamers can have PC accuracy without losing anything, and PC gamers can have couch comfort and splitscreen without losing anything.

shameduser:
I still think it's going to be Source 2.

Source 2 is just an Engine, what can it do that's so important to /livingroom/ gaming that is worth being the 3rd reveal?
Nothing that any other engine can't.

I really hope that this isn't the announcement, although I'm practically convinced that it is. I got into the Half-life series with the Summer Sale, and now that I've knocked them over, I'm going through that phase where I'm really hyped for Half-Life 3. It would be amazing if they could just go ahead and announce it now, before my interest fades and it becomes one of those things that I'll take a look at if it ever comes out, but don't really care about. Much like the magical version of Pokemon where you can travel to every region and catch every Pokemon. Oh, if only.

There's still a chance it could happen, right? Half-Life 3 as a SteamBox(es) exclusive maybe? Oh, the suspense is killing me.

I'm morbidly curious.
Morbidly because if they pull that stick layout, we're going to be in a world of pain. Though I have to say, the idea of changing the components of the controller needs to get pulled off well finally. What also needs to get pulled off is a controller with more buttons, as well as good ergonomics.

What I fail to see is what good a trackball is supposed to do. Where's the big difference towards an analog stick and how does it specifically help aiming? From my point of view, it's just as inaccurate, and nobody is used to it, so they have to learn a different input system.

I hope I can use a keyboard and mouse

Interesting. Also while I saw that someone posted older controllers with a similar concept Madcatz has actually done the swappable analog sticks and d-pad design more recently with the MLG Pro Circuit Controller. It was OK. A little on the flimsy side (also the stock d-pads both sucked).

Matthi205:
What I fail to see is what good a trackball is supposed to do. Where's the big difference towards an analog stick and how does it specifically help aiming? From my point of view, it's just as inaccurate, and nobody is used to it, so they have to learn a different input system.

Oh it's good, very good.

Hold the phone. There's me teetering closer to buying a PC gamepad at last; now I think I'll wait for the announcement.

If it is this, it'll need to be well-made to not feel flimsy or be eminently breakable.

subtlefuge:
..double d(-pad)..

Eeheehee! Sorry, couldn't help myself.

OF course this is the announcement. i meant come on, O+O looks like a controller shaped device. Glasses would be O-O.

LuisGuimaraes:

Oh it's good, very good.

This looks like controlled by a Mouse. if its as good this could be revolutionary for console shooters.

Strazdas:
OF course this is the announcement. i meant come on, O+O looks like a controller shaped device. Glasses would be O-O.

LuisGuimaraes:

Oh it's good, very good.

This looks like controlled by a Mouse. if its as good this could be revolutionary for console shooters.

That's the whole point. That's an idea of how awesome console gaming can become, awesome input system and mods.
As well as bring the ease of use, couch comfort and split screen features of consoles to PCs. Best of both worlds.

Only point where Trackball loses to Mouse is in the physical limitations of thumb compared to an entire arm and hand combination. As you won't be moving your hand or arm, the thumb is the only thing affecting your input, and it can only cover a small area, so that's all you'll have to work with, so there's tradeoffs between speed and precision. Unless the controller has secondary input for looking around, something you can use to aid long movements while using the trackball for precise movements (as you can use wrist and fingers for aiming while using arm for long turns), like a gyro or something, in that case it'd be all perfect for the aim part. For me it'd be ideal to move all buttons to shoulders, 6 or 8 each side, and maybe one alternator each side to multiply that by 2.

Strazdas:
OF course this is the announcement. i meant come on, O+O looks like a controller shaped device. Glasses would be O-O.

LuisGuimaraes:

Oh it's good, very good.

This looks like controlled by a Mouse. if its as good this could be revolutionary for console shooters.

That's because a trackball is a mouse. One from a bygone age when the mouse had a little rolling ball in the bottom of it instead of an LED or a laser.

Which is why that will almost certainly revolutionize aiming with a controller... and make cursor control viable, too... so RTSes on a controller might actually be viable.

I hope this wild speculation is true... and it's not too hard to control a trackball with only your thumb. Never tried it.

loc978:
That's because a trackball is a mouse. One from a bygone age when the mouse had a little rolling ball in the bottom of it instead of an LED or a laser.

Ive had my share of trackball mouses. heck ive seen couple used still. but they were inacurate, would get stuck and otherwise was quite poor and thus LED and Laser ones have changed them very quikly increasing efficiency. if they managed to make trackball as efficient as lazer mouses thats a very big thing.

 

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