Valve may beta test hardware project in 2013

Knowing Valve's cautious approach to new ventures and its emphasis on polish over timeliness, I wasn't expecting a taste of its first hardware project until... well, until some time around the heat death of the universe. According to a recent piece by Engadget, however, we may see some kind of a public beta much sooner than that.

The piece is about Valve's hardware skunkworks and the woman in charge—Jeri Ellsworth, a self-taught chip designer whose claims to fame include creating a hardware Commodore 64 emulator. Ellsworth seems to have remained rather vague during her talk with Engadget, and as a result, the story doesn't reveal much more than the New York Times piece we spotted last week.

Except, that is, for one rather interesting detail:

Ellsworth is hoping to have [a beta] for the team's first product in the coming year -- we'll of course know much more about the product by then, she says. Internal beta tests are already underway, and a variety of the team's prototypes are available in the office for other Valve employees to tool around with. The next step is getting prototypes into gamers hands -- she says Valve already has a production line for short runs, making a beta possible -- and iterating on design before launch.

Could Valve's super-secret hardware project—which might involve wearable computing, apparently—be ready for a first look in 2013? Maybe so. And then again, maybe not. Ellsworth is only "hoping" to have a beta ready by then, and we all know how flaky Valve's scheduling promises tend to be.

Whatever, though. I'm still excited.

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