Pimax’s New VR Controller Design Resembles Valve’s Knuckles Controller

Pimax is hard at work preparing for the release of the upcoming Pimax 8K VR system. The company regularly releases updates for its backers to keep them apprised of the Pimax 8K headset development, but we rarely hear anything about the controllers that will accompany the headset. In fact, Pimax hasn't mentioned details of the controller since December. Today, though, Pimax revealed the latest iteration of the controller design, and it’s a massive change from the original mock-up. The new design has more in common with Valve’s Knuckles controller than it does with Pimax’s original controller prototype. 

Fortunately, it appears Pimax is taking the design of its input hardware seriously. Pimax is trying to position the Pimax 8K as a “next-gen” VR system, but to do that, it must offer more than just a high-resolution, ultra-wide HMD. The company needs to deliver a complete “next-gen” VR experience to earn that crown, and new innovative controllers must be part of that equation. 

The original controller prototype, of which we saw a broken version at Immersed 2017, loosely resembles HTC’s Vive controller. The new design borrows much from Valve’s in-development Knuckles controllers, which were first revealed at the company’s Steam Developer Days conference in late 2016, and VR enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting their release. The Knuckles controllers offer buttons and a trackpad for interaction just like the original Vive controllers. Valve’s controller design also offers capacitive finger detection, and it’s designed to stay in your hand when your release your grip, which opens the doors for new interactions.

Pimax said that it wants to make the Pimax 8K compatible with as much content as possible. The controllers feature triggers and grip buttons that resemble those of the Oculus Touch controllers, and the face of the controllers include menu and system buttons. Pimax is also giving its customers the option of trackpad-equipped or thumbstick-equipped controllers.

Pimax’s new controllers also include capacitive-touch finger sensors and an over-hand strap that keeps the controller secure when you let go of it. Like Valve’s Knuckle’s controllers, Pimax’s upcoming VR controllers include sensors for your index finger in the triggers, thumb sensors in the trackpad/thumbstick, middle finger sensors in the grip buttons, and sensors for your ring and pinky fingers embedded in the base of the handle. The controllers also include a semi rigid strap that secures the controller to the palm of your hand.

Whereas Valve’s controller design features sensors embedded in the strap, which keeps the size of the controller to a minimum, Pimax’s isn’t so compact; the tracking sensors are embedded in a halo that is attached to the base of the controller handle and wraps around the user’s wrist. The Pimax 8K hardware will feature sensors that are compatible with Steam VR Tracking 2.0 base stations.

Pimax didn’t mention the target release date for the controllers, but we expect to see them later this year. The company faced multiple delays with the Pimax 8K headset release, but it’s approaching the final stages with a closed beta test about to commence. Once Pimax completes the development of the headset, it can turn its full attention towards the controller development. The Pimax 8K headset is scheduled to launch in Q218, and we expect to see the controllers arrive shortly thereafter, in Q3.

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