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Oculus getting hands-on in VR wars

When the Oculus Rift was first released to consumers, users got a VR headset and an Xbox controller - and you couldn't see the controller in VR. HTC Vive, however, let users walk around the space and see exactly where the two hand controllers were in the virtual space. But that was always the long-term plan for the Rift as well, and now the long-awaited hand controllers are just around the corner.

Back when I was working on projects using the Oculus Rift development kits, the headset itself was always the main focus. Things like hand controllers were available, but from other companies, and not often used in conjunction with VR. To be perfectly honest, tracking my hands seemed like a gimmick.

However, when I first used the HTC Vive, it was the first time I'd been able to stand up and walk around in the 3D space instead of being constrained to a seated position. In that environment, the hand tracking made a lot more sense to me. I could pick up objects, wield weapons, paint ... almost anything I could do with my physical hands. After an experience like that, I couldn't think of it as a gimmick anymore.

Somewhere along the line, Oculus must have had that same realisation. It's interesting to see how similar their setup has become to the Vive. It now features two trackers (like the Vive) instead of the original one, and the play area has expanded.

Although I haven't used the Oculus Touch in person, the controller itself looks like it could raise the bar yet further. Instead of the two awkward grip buttons on the sides of the Vive, you can simulate gripping something by ... well ... gripping.

The fact that the controller detects your hand position rather than requiring you to press specific buttons means that games using the Oculus can display an actual hand model instead of the controller. That could open a lot of new possibilities, or at least make players feel less like pirates with two hook-hands.

Arrrrrr.

Oculus Touch's biggest strength is that you don't have to focus on holding it at all times. With controllers like the HTC Vive or PlayStation Move (or even the Wii Remote), your fingers and hand position are limited by the need to grip the controllers with most of your fingers at all times. Oculus Touch, on the other hand, is balanced to stay in the crook between your thumb and index finger, even if you open your fingers and thumb and even as you twist and turn your hands around in all directions.

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