Virtual reality is in an odd place right now. Countless companies are competing to one-up each other, adding features and upgrades to supposedly make their headsets stand out … but most of them are unreleased products. It's essentially unreleased beta hardware duking it out to score public perception points (and, by association, woo developers). Leap Motion and Razer's OSVR took the latest step in that game today.
Leap today announced that the OSVR Hacker Dev Kit will soon (optionally) include a faceplate with the Leap Motion controller attached. Having a hands-free motion control sensor on the front of your VR headset has one obvious benefit: you can use your hands as controllers.
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As immersive as VR is (when done well), we do find that there can sometimes be a disconnect when you're using a game controller to move around in your virtual environment. Once you're "in" the VR world, your first instinct is to use your body to walk around and interact with your environment. The OSVR/Leap partnership won't do anything for walking, but it does at least let you use your hands.
We tried a rigged-up version of this during our OSVR hands-on at CES, as Razer had strapped Leap Motion to the front of its demo units. It was hard to get too excited about the headset, as the experience was far behind that of using the Oculus Rift, but the Leap Motion control worked fairly well. The big limitation was that you couldn't move your hands outside of a certain range, or the sensor wouldn't register your gesture (in our case, shooting fireballs).
Again, though, that was an obviously rigged-together version of early OSVR hardware, so we'd be surprised if that January demo wasn't a remotely accurate reflection of what we'll see later on.
The companies say that the OSVR beta kit will support multiple forms of motion control, so we could have a situation where Leap Motion tracks hand gestures, a TV-mounted sensor tracks body movement, while something like the Virtuix VR treadmill sensing walking and running.
Interested developers will be able to order the OSVR dev kit with Leap Motion faceplate in May, and orders are scheduled to start shipping in June.
Developer page: Leap MotionView gallery - 5 images