Valve's new hardware team may have something to show as soon as 2013.
Ellsworth said Valve has the capacity to produce short prototype runs of new products, which would allow it to conduct public betas; she hopes to conduct one next year.
Valve still won't say what exactly the hardware team is doing - a lot of delighted prototyping, by the sounds of it - but Ellsworth said its one-year goal is "to make Steam games more fun to play in your living room".
It's not clear what precisely this means, but the team is working to complement Big Picture Mode and to eliminate control barriers - so some sort of controller, it seems. Remember that controller patent, and the Steambox rumours?
In the longer term, the hardware division is part of Valve's wearable computing movement, but is looking at a two to five year schedule on those projects.
Ellsworth said not to put too much store by prototypes spotted in images of the team's workspaces.
"On any given day you could snap a photo of my office and find a variety of prototypes laying around," she said, explaining that Valve has produced experiments which look good enough to ship, but are still just prototypes.
The latest find from happy snaps of Ellsworth's workspace include a control pad with an inbuilt screen.