Ooh. This is interesting. The guys at The Verge were invited to Valve's headquarters last month, and they got up close and personal with the company's Steam Machine prototype—close enough to snap a few pictures and learn some new details about the system.
The Steam Machine prototype's specs and dimensions were made public a month ago. Now that it's taken a peek inside, The Verge says the 12" x 12.4" x 2.9" system segregates the processor, graphics card, and power supply with a plastic shroud. Each component has its own air exhaust, as well. "The CPU blows air out the top, the power supply out the side, and the graphics card exhaust out back, and none share any airspace within the case," the site explains.
Valve's prototype is but one of many possible Steam Machine configurations, of course. The company told The Verge that many of its hardware partners will whip up smaller systems. Some of those, it sounds like, may feature integrated graphics. Valve is apparently "super interested" in Intel's Iris Pro IGP—and when asked if Intel or AMD could make processors with beefed-up integrated graphics specifically for Steam Machines, the firm said, "We don't have an answer that we can give you before January." That sure sounds like a yes to me.
January is when Valve plans to announce SteamOS games and third-party Steam Machines publicly. The launch will take place at CES 2014, which is scheduled to kick off on January 7, and Steam Machines should hit the market around the middle of the year. Steam Machine prototypes are scheduled to go out to beta testers this year, but there will only be 300 of those.
The Verge also got to see some older Steam Controller proofs of concept, including several with trackballs. Valve eventually ditched the trackball in favor of dual touchpads and a touch screen—but it didn't stop experimenting with unorthodox control schemes. During The Verge's visit, there was apparently talk of an "unannounced future VR headset" that could probe your earlobe to figure out your emotional state and "adjust the experience to match."
Exciting stuff. I'm definitely looking forward to that CES 2014 announcement.