Everyone has been psyched about the reveal of the Xi3 Piston, a tiny handheld computer meant to run Steam in big picture mode. However, if I may do my best Obi-Wan impression, this is not the Steam Box you are looking for.
According to an interview with Gabe Newell by TheVerge, Valve will be working on their own Steam Box as well. Even though the specs on this box have not yet been nailed down, it will run Linux. This is deifferent from the Xi3 machine, which ran Windows. Of course, Newell said that you would be able to install Windows on the Steam Box if you wanted to adding “This is not some locked box by any stretch of the imagination.”
What will the Steam Box be like? Well even Newell doesn’t know yet. He did say that Valve isn’t particularly looking into motion controls. What they are looking into, on the other hand, is controllers that utilize biometric data. You may remember the Wii Vitality Sensor, which was supposed to monitor your heart rate, showing up a few years back and dropping off the face of the earth shortly thereafter. Valve suggests a standard controller, something like a dualshock or Xbox controller, with biometric sensors built in, so that you won’t have to deal with the bulky finger clip.
Here’s what Newell had to say on the topic:
“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.”