Though VR technology has come a long way since its inception in the late
19 th century *ahem* 20th century, the methods of interacting with a virtual world have remained largely the same. Through the use of buttons and controllers, using a VR headset still feels very cumbersome despite its ability to add real actions into a virtual space.
But what if you didn’t need a controller? What if you could control everything seamlessly through the use of your own two hands?
This is exactly what Oculus has been working on. Early next 2020, the Oculus Quest VR headset will allow for true hand-based inputs straight from your hands into the virtual space, turning your actual hands into the VR controllers.
Created in collaboration with Facebook Reality Labs, the system relies on the Oculus Quest’s four monochrome cameras to track your hand movements and reflect them in virtual space. Using deep learning techniques and model-based tracking, the headset can process your actions (such as pointing, pinching, and widening your fingers) and take them as ques for interaction.
Once you turn on the Oculus Quest, deep neural networks predict the location of your hands and construct a 3D space for your hands and fingers. It is in this space where you can wave your hands willy-nilly and the Quest will create a 3D model of your hands’ positions and surface geometry. This allows the headset to precisely track all your hand movements and translate them into the virtual world without any lag.
This new interface won’t just make it easier for current VR users to use their headsets, but it will reduce the entry barrier for new folks to get into the technology as well. Since more people know how to use their hands than a controller, interacting with the Oculus Quest becomes more intuitive with the new hand tracking tech. Imagine being able to pause, play, and rewind videos with just a few simple hand gestures, or allowing deaf and mute people to interact with others online using sign language.
Combine this with developers’ abilities to craft apps using the technology, and Oculus has itself a brand new, controller-free playground to work with. We’ll be sure to post more information as it nears release, but for now you can check out Facebook’s in-depth blog post on the collaboration as well as Oculus’ announcement on their blog.