Valve's console in-the-making, referred to as "Steam Box," is still in a rather conceptual form. Still, Valve CEO Gabe Newell was willing to talk a little more in depth about their new hardware, in a recent interview where he discusses everything Steam Box related.
Newell confirmed during his talks that the new console, whenever it may arrive would utilize Linux as its native OS, but Valve will allow users to install an alternative OS of their choosing, such as Windows.
"We’ll come out with our own and we’ll sell it to consumers by ourselves. That’ll be a Linux box, [and] if you want to install Windows you can. We’re not going to make it hard. This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination. We also think that a controller that has higher precision and lower latency is another interesting thing to have."
The question of controls is still up in the air at this point, with Valve hoping to come up with something a little more interesting than your typical game controller. When looking at motion, the developer was fairly quick to realize that avenue wouldn't work either. What it comes down to is a mix of function and fun, and understanding players want something "more precise and is less laggy." So what's the answer? Well, if they do eventually figure out a satisfying solution, it'd be based a lot on how our bodies work:
"I think you’ll see controllers coming from us that use a lot of biometric data. Maybe the motion stuff is just failure of imagination on our part, but we’re a lot more excited about biometrics as an input method. Motion just seems to be a way of [thinking] of your body as a set of communication channels. Your hands, and your wrist muscles, and your fingers are actually your highest bandwidth — so to trying to talk to a game with your arms is essentially saying 'oh we’re going to stop using ethernet and go back to 300 baud dial-up.' Maybe there are other ways to think of that. There’s more engagement when you’re using larger skeletal muscles, but whenever we go down [that path] we sort of come away unconvinced. Biometrics on the other hand is essentially adding more communication bandwidth between the game and the person playing it, especially in ways the player isn’t necessarily conscious of. Biometrics gives us more visibility. Also, gaze tracking. We think gaze tracking is going to turn out to be super important."
Just this week, Xi3 was showing off their Steam-compatible hardware.
As for Valve, their work continues, but Newell has no doubt the Steam Box will be able to compete against Microsoft and Sony in the console market. He has faith in the gaming community, and in his studio's abilities to create something people will want. Says Newell:
"The internet is super smart. If you do something that is cool, that's actually worth people's time, then they'll adopt it. If you do something that's not cool and sucks, you can spend as many marketing dollars as you want, [they] just won't."