Valve's Newell hints at biofeedback peripheral project

February 21, 2012 // 11:58 a.m.

Tags: #biofeedback #gabe-newell #half-life-3 #peripheral #steam #steamworks #valve #wearable-computing

Valve founder Gabe Newell has suggested that his company could look to creating its own hardware if mainstream platforms continue to stifle innovation.

Speaking in an interview with Penny Arcade, Newell stated clearly that a move into hardware would not be impossible for his previously software-only company. 'Well, if we have to sell hardware we will. We have no reason to believe we’re any good at it,' Newell admitted, 'it's more we think that we need to continue to have innovation and if the only way to get these kind of projects started is by us going and developing and selling the hardware directly then that's what we’ll do.'

Although Newell offered no hints as to what form the hardware might take, he did prove to be enthused about the concept of wearable computing. Discussing experiments that Valve has been carrying out in the field of biofeedback and biometrics, Newell's comments suggested that a PC peripheral could be on the cards.

Newell suggested that an incremental approach to hardware design, based on the way the company's popular Team Fortress series is created, could work for the release of a biofeedback system. The key, Newell claimed, is getting it into people's hands first and worrying about creating content for it later.

While it's unlikely that Valve would consider creating a gaming platform of its own, the concept of Valve-branded peripherals has merit. Steam, Valve's digital distribution platform, is increasingly popular among developers thanks to its Steamworks functionality: APIs that allow game makers to easily embed Steam-powered features such as group chat and mod downloads into their software.

By releasing a peripheral with the same sort of drop-in API-based support, Valve could quite easily make the leap from having a cool toy to having a cool toy and the software with which to sell it to customers.

Sadly, Newell falls short of committing to the launch of a biofeedback peripheral, stating only that his company believes that innovation in this space is 'important enough that if that's what we end up having to do then that's what we end up having to do.'

The full interview, which includes Newell's response to fan irritation surrounding the company's silence on projects like Half-Life 3, is definitely worth a read.

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