Valve Knuckles controllers: Everything you need to know!


3 min read

The newest controllers from Valve take things in an interesting direction; they are immediately familiar, but they have quite a few new features and a new way of attaching them to your hands. The Knuckles controllers of the second generation, released in June, tried to improve on that. We have everything you need to know if you're wondering what these unique controllers are all about.


To give us a full look at the new EV3 Knuckle controllers, developer Brian Lindenhof released a video on YouTube. A few modifications that appear to be relatively minor have been made to the shaping of the controllers. Although the changes were small, when it comes to players using the controls for longer periods of time without suffering from cramps or pointy ends digging into their hands, it will make a world of difference.


That the weight of the controllers is exactly the same is the most striking update mentioned in this video. This means that firmware updates are responsible for all of the battery improvements noted in the SteamVR Knuckles Driver Forums. Another noteworthy mention is that it seems that this version is more durable than the previous versions. In contrast to the EV2 versions that he had to replace several times, Brian mentions an overall improvement in the feel of the controllers.


Although we're all eager to get our hands on a couple of these controllers, nobody expects them to be perfect yet. As more news comes out, we will keep you updated here. Check in, be sure!


At Steam Dev Days 2016, a first glimpse was seen of the Knuckles prototype. The fact that you could let go of the controller without it dropping to the floor or hanging by the safety cord was one of the major areas of focus. Finger tracking was also included in the design, something Oculus Touch controllers have had from the beginning.


Valve has been hard at work refining the design since the first look, and now it seems they're getting serious about their product. Kits for developers were sent out, and a group of Steam Community Knuckles was created.


Now, the second release of the Knuckle controllers was released to developers in June of 2017. Although customers can still not buy controllers, there are quite a few major updates that have us all super-stimulated for their release. For more data, read on below!


How do I get controllers for Valve Knuckles?

Only some select developers hand-picked by Valve were lucky enough to get the controllers from Knuckles. The rest of us are going to have to wait for further notice. There has been speculation that next year they will potentially be released, as it will take some time to refine the developers' feedback.


How do you attach the knuckle controller to your hand?

There is a band that loops around the back of your hand near your knuckles, much like the Oculus Touch controllers. With the new update, there is more space on the controls to fit larger hands as of June 12. The Knuckles controllers have two adjustable straps built in, while the band on the Touch controllers is static. You slip your hand through and naturally hold the controller, pull the cord on the controller's bottom, and tighten it all down.


The top strap now has the ability to adjust to 1 of 4 different positions if you find that your hand could do with being a little more snug (or a bit freer). Before placing your hand into the device, this is a setting that you change. Once both straps are tightened over your hand, without having it drop, you can let go of the controller.


Is removing the controllers easy?

It's just as easy to remove the controllers as to put them on. All you have to do is use your other hand at the bottom of the controller to squeeze the bottom. To make it simpler to remove, this will release the strap that holds your hand in place. They give me the surprise of putting them on for the amount of security, and taking them off isn't complicated. It's certainly an added bonus.


How do you track motion with Knuckles controllers?

With outside sensors such as the Vive's Lighthouses, not only will the Knuckles controllers track the motion of your hands, but they will also track the movement of your individual fingers using built-in touch capacitors.


The sensor on the side of the device allows all 4 of your long fingers to track movement. Not only that, but another thing that's included in the update is that all the buttons, the track button, and the thumbstick have sensory capabilities. This enables better monitoring and it will be possible for developers of your favorite games to harness this for their games.


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


On Knuckles controllers, how do you calibrate finger tracking?

Instead of having to take off your head-mounted display and access settings via your computer, all you have to do is close your hand entirely on the controller with each finger on its respective sensor to calibrate the finger tracking on a Knuckles controller, then open it and hold it there for one second. They are also auto-calibrating now with updated software on the controllers!


How many buttons do controllers have for Knuckles?

Actually, the part of the Knuckles controller that sits in your hand is quite similar to the original wands of the Vive. For your thumb, you have a large trackpad, a few face buttons on either side and a system button below. There is a trigger on the back for each controller as well. The Knuckles controllers are quite a bit smaller and fit much more naturally into your hand and have a wide variety of functions to improve your immersion in the game, if you think the Vive wands are a bit big and clunky.


Analog: Detect a pressure ramp from a touch of light to a hard squeeze.

Digital: As a digital input, both the Grip and the Track Button can behave. To mimic the behavior of a mechanical button, just choose a force threshold for activation and fire a haptic.


Multistep: The above combination.

Disabled: this sensor can, of course, be ignored if your content doesn't need this functionality.

Do existing hardware and software work with Knuckles controllers?


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


With the new controllers, previously developed software will also be usable. By mapping similar buttons to the new hardware, Valve is set to deliver a function that emulates the wand controllers.


How do you pair Knuckles with SteamVR controllers?

In the Devices menu of 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. Note that in order for Knuckles controllers to pair correctly, you need to opt into the SteamVR beta. They have even received better input for SteamVR as of June 2018. Devs should update all of their content as we speak, to support the new SteamVR Input system!


In Knuckles controllers, how long do the batteries last?

To support up to 6 hours of gameplay now, the battery life has been extended. Even better, it only takes approximately an hour and a half to fully charge each controller. This implies that for your favorite VR experiences, you'll have plenty of game time and just enough time for a lunch break while they charge before you can play again!


What do Knuckles Controller lights mean?

On each controller, a small LED makes an appearance to help you determine its state. The wands of The Vive also have an LED, but here some of the colors indicate distinct states.


Are Controllers Knuckles ambidextrous?

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


How well do Knuckles controllers adapt to various sizes of hands?

The existing Knuckle controller prototypes account for varying hand sizes, as explained by VR developer Cloudhead Games. While your friend with bear hands is always likely to find the controller tight, and child-sized hands may struggle to reach the top of the trackpad, most players should be accounted for by the fit. All of the new updates account for the width and length of the size. When you're looking for the right size for you, the added strap should definitely make a difference.


What comes with the Knuckles controller in the box?

Although retail units currently do not exist, VR developers are already receiving development kits from Valve for Knuckle controllers. The current prototypes come in bare packaging, alongside the essentials, as demonstrated by Vertigo Games, the developer behind Arizona Sunshine. While this will certainly change for public release, you can still see the controllers straight out of the packaging in the flesh below.