Valve has announced a new category of living-room hardware today, that will be running Steam OS and will be available in multiple configurations. Only 300 of these boxes will ship this year though, for testing purposes.
While in testing, the new "Steam machines" will be free of charge for 300 lucky Steam users that are eligible to get one. For this, you must complete a quest before October 25: join the Steam Universe community group, agree to the Steam Hardware Beta Terms and Conditions, make 10 Steam friends, create a public Steam Community profile and play a game using a gamepad in Big Picture mode. Once you complete these steps, you'll be awarded a special badge and be among the pool of people that can be chosen to test the new hardware.
According to Valve, the new Steam machines will be "completely upgradable and open" and starting next year, there will be multiple machines to choose from, made by different manufacturers. There are no hardware specifications at this time.
For more information, see the official announcement.