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Barinaga was director of mechanical engineering for Xbox accessories, working on projects including the Xbox 360 wireless controller d-pad. (Microsoft photo)

It’s not uncommon for video game company Valve to hire Microsoft veterans. Co-founder Gabe Newell himself came from Microsoft. But one of these recent hires seems to underscore how serious Valve is getting about hardware design as it develops its new “Steam Box” game machine.

Valve has hired Louis Barinaga, who previously worked as director of mechanical engineering for Xbox accessories at Microsoft. He was spotlighted on Microsoft’s Careers Site for his role on the team behind the Xbox 360’s wireless controller. His work was key to getting the controller’s rotational d-pad to work.

Barinaga’s LinkedIn profile doesn’t give any clues about what he’s doing at Valve, other than to say he’s working in mechanical engineering. (He hasn’t yet responded to our message asking for more info.) But his experience with the intricacies of the Xbox 360 controller would make sense in light of Valve’s Steam Box ambitions.

Newell told the Verge last month that he expects Steam Box control mechanisms to include features such as biometrics and gaze-tracking for more nuanced control of games, as opposed to the bigger motion controls that exist with devices such as Microsoft Kinect and Nintendo Wii.

In separate and presumably unrelated Valve personnel news, another hardware engineer for the company, Jeri Ellsworth, made news this week when she tweeted that she had been fired.

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