A good VR experience can make you feel like you could reach out and touch things in the virtual world. You can’t of course, but the Oculus Quest is getting you one step closer with full hand tracking technology. You can set down the controllers, and the headset will follow your hands, rendering them in the virtual world with the help of its cameras.
The number of Oculus headsets has increased over the last few years, making it a challenge to know which system does what. Previously, the company just had the Rift headset for PCs. Now, there’s a Rift S for PC gaming and the Oculus Go for smart-phone style mobile VR. The Oculus Quest is right in the middle, which has been something of a sweet spot for consumers. This $399 standalone headset is more powerful than the Oculus Go, has real-world “inside-out tracking” location awareness, and comes with two touch controllers.
With the newest software update, you might be able to ditch the controllers completely… in certain situations. The headset has four built-in cameras, and it uses those to identify your hands, allowing the software to incorporate them into the virtual landscape. Theoretically, that will allow you to manipulate objects and play games sans controller. This feature doesn’t work with any games yet, though. You’ll only be able to go controller-free in the Oculus Quest’s root menu, but there is an SDK for developers to begin adding hand tracking.
The Quest has very rudimentary controls for hand tracking right now. When you leave your hands open, the system uses them like cursors in the same way it does the motion controllers. You can tap your thumb and index finger together to “click” on menu items. It also supports dragging items when you hold those fingers together.
This feature is technically impressive, and it reportedly works well. Playing around in menus is not why people buy VR headsets, though. It’s going to be up to game developers to find ways to make hand tracking useful. It will probably never allow for the same level of interaction as a controller with multiple buttons and thumbsticks. However, gamers might be willing to accept simpler experiences if they feel more realistic by freeing them from controllers.
The hand tracking features are rolling out on the Oculus Quest now. Developers should have the updated SDK within a week to start developing games with the feature.