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Is Valve Working On Their Own Next-Generation Gaming Tech? [UPDATED]

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[UPDATE: Credit to Leveraged and Air - turns out the great Michael Abrash, who was recently hired by Valve, has been spearheading the development of wearable computing tech... inside Valve itself. I don't know about you, but if you ask me, that's next-gen hardware right there. He wrote a full, official blog post about the whole thing, and way more, on his Valve blog - check it out.]

While those pesky rumors of Valve building their own hybrid PC-console Frankenstein thing have been at least somewhat dispelled, the possibility of Valve starting to release their own hardware still remains likely. Whether it’s a hat robot for your living room, or a game controller using bio-metric technology to tailor the game experience to your emotions and sensations - or, hell, maybe they might be doing a Steam Box after all. Valve certainly has the funding to pull it off.

What they might not have at this particular point in time are enough developers with which to pursue large-scale hardware development. But of course, anyone who gets an invitation for a job interview at Valve is going to accept it so quickly, they’ll manage to get hired, shortly before their head pops off due to joy. That’s just how it works.

Is Valve Working On Their Own Next-Generation Gaming Tech? [UPDATED]

Unlike most of her fellow Valve employees, Jeri Ellsworth has her own Wikipedia page. Similarly, unlike most of her fellow Valve employees, Jeri isn’t exactly a video game designer. But she does have a very particular set of skills. No, she’s not a former CIA agent (… I think) - she’s a self-taught computer chip designer. It might sound like a boring job title, until you realize she created the C-One; the Commodore 64 Direct-to-TV; and many more homebrew creations of her own design. Recently, she was hired by Valve, but we didn’t quite know what she was working on. Until now.

She also has her own Twitter. That may not sound important, but bear with me, guys. Let’s take a look at one of her more recent, and more interesting tweets:

We’re hiring electrical engineers/makers for our R&D dream team at Valve Software. http://www.valvesoftware.com/jobs/job_postings.html

I know what you’re thinking: “this is all well and good, sir, but why exactly did you put ‘next-generation’ in the title?” Don’t worry, I haven’t gone tabloid on you guys (or so I’m told) - so allow me to explain. Let’s take a look at an even more interesting tweet Jeri made:

I’m working at Valve on nextgen gaming hardware.

This was then re-tweeted by veteran Valve dev Greg Coomer, who has been linked to the development of the supposed Steam Box. Again, let’s not jump to conclusions – the term “next-gen” can mean a lot of things. They’re not necessarily building the GabeCube or anything like that - or so we hope. Let’s take a look at the contents of that “electronics engineer” job posting:

For years, Valve has been all about writing software that provides great gameplay experiences. Now we’re developing hardware to enhance those experiences, and you can be a key part of making that happen. Join our highly motivated team that’s doing hardware design, prototyping, testing, and production across a wide range of platforms. We’re not talking about me-too mice and gamepads here – help us invent whole new gaming experiences.

Duties:
  • Work with the hardware team to conceive, design, evaluate, and produce new types of input, output, and platform hardware
Requirements:
  • Hands on prototyping experience
  • Lab and measurement skills
  • System level design experience
  • Knowledge of embedded systems/microcontrollers
  • Experience with high speed serial interfaces
  • Experience with schematic entry
  • Experience with circuit simulation
  • Four years relevant experience
Recommended:
  • Board layout (analog and high speed digital)
  • Hardware Definition Languages (HDL) for FPGA and chip design
  • Power supply management
  • Thermal management
  • Design for test
  • Low frequency analog
  • RF and antennas
  • Signal integrity analysis
  • DSP
  • ARM / X86 system design
  • Manufacturing pilot runs
  • Failure analysis
  • FCC/CE/UL certification

Man, I don’t know. This is just like that old red-wire, blue-wire gag. Except the wires now have weird names, and there’s like 20 of them. If you guys can make some sense of this, then please enlighten us via the comments section below. This does sound like some pretty substantial R&D, though. And if Valve wants to hire me, I’m all for it. I know how to glue things together, and I can set things on fire. And as we all know, eventually, something’s gonna be on fire inside a console. Or a hat robot.

Via EnGadget and ValveTime.

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17 Comments

  1. Maybe Valve is working with Apple to make an integrated console to the APPLETV. Here is the link to some of these rumors.

    http://www.tactiphone.com/apple-itv-des-jeux-pour-la-smart-tv-en-collaboration-avec-valve.html

  2. Thanks for the shout-out, Vic, and here’s another amazingly cool exclusive scoop from CULT OF MAC:

    http://www.cultofmac.com/160760/why-apple-ceo-tim-cook-met-with-valve-exclusive/

    Yep, we now know WHY Tim was meeting with Gabe, besides the obvious fact that they are both Bros in the Billionaires Bro Club.

    Vic, write an article on this already! I can see it now: “Half-Life 3 exclusive title to launch on new Apply iGame Console!”

    • Wait, wasn’t that article mostly just speculation and word from unnamed sources? Don’t get me wrong, the article makes some sense. It’s just after the “Steam Box” incident, anonymous sources about Valve hardware hasn’t gone so well.

      Just makin’ sure…

      • That article is, pretty much, utterly baseless. They take reports that Apple is planning to create some sort of living-room game console… and somehow, they believe this has something to do with Tim’s visit at Valve. Moreover, we’ve already heard that any possibility of Valve pursuing a “Steam Box” is rather far off.
        Furthermore, the concepts, reasons, logistics and ideas behind whatever living-room platforms Valve and Apple would want to pursue, would completely contradict each other, and as such I find the prospect of them actually working together on this rather unlikely, given that the end result would likely satisfy neither Valve nor Apple. And if Valve and Apple really were pursuing such a project, I would have expected to see Tim visiting Valve, or Gabe visiting Apple a lot sooner than this. Seems like those guys are just grasping at straws.

        • Yeah, that’s more or less what I thought the first time I read it. And for some reason they linked the (discredited) Steam Box rumors to Michael Abrash’s project. Red flag…

          • Farrah ’nuff… I stand corrected, it’s not such a smashing scoop… BUT

            Still begs the question: Why was Cook @ Valve?

            I hold that it has something to do with Abrash blog post, specifically the part where Abrash discusses how Valve has tackled the Innovator’s Dilemma. (Read the book by Clayton Christensen, one of Steve Jobs favorites) Here’s more on this concept: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology

            Both Apple & Valve have solved the Innovator’s Dilemma in slightly different ways and both companies have been insanely successful as a result. It makes sense to see them comparing notes & sharing company strategy since they are both dedicated to driving creative innovation.

            • I need to re-phrase that last bit: Valve & Apple are not just dedicated to creative innovation, but also to brilliant & effective execution of the innovations they develop.

              It’s the lifeblood of their current & future success.

  3. Lots of interesting stuff you can do with digital signal processing.

  4. I don’t see this link mentioned http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/
    It’s very relevant.

  5. By cutting out the producers, Valve stands to make a LOT MORE MONEY. Good for you valve. Now please don’t pull a dreamcast on us ;)

    Scientia ipsa potentia est

  6. When I fist pointed this out to valvetime.net, I wasn’t sure if “working on next gen hardware” was just referring to them having xbox 720 or ps4 prototypes, and trying to make the source engine run better on them. But given the more recent tweets, this is definitely some valve hardware of their own. Whether it’s wearable computing or something much bigger, I’m very excited… :D

  7. This very much sounds like gaming peripherals to me, not a console.

  8. Don’t forget about this: http://www.penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/valves-gabe-newell-talks-wearable-computers-rewarding-players-and-whether-w

    • I read that as “wearable computers rewarding players” & thought it sounded a lot dirtier than it actually is.

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