Putting users inside a virtual reality world is a good start, but those users need to interact with their surroundings too, and that's still a problem for companies invested in VR. Now HTC and Logitech are joining forces to put one of the most mundane but essential actions in VR – typing on a keyboard.
Logitech just unveiled the Bridge developers kit, a bundle of hardware and software designed to help app makers work out how best to represent keyboards in VR space. It'll enable VR explorers to see their physical keyboard in a virtual reality world, and enable them to type on it without lifting off their headsets to get their bearings.
The kit includes a Logitech G gaming keyboard, a Vive Tracker for monitoring finger placement and typing on the keyboard, an attachment for connecting the two, plus software for getting everything correctly ported into a VR world. Logitech is making 50 of the bundles available to developers to begin with (you can apply for one here).
The Vive Tracker was announced at the start of this year and can be fixed to just about anything – from baseball bats to model guns – to get real-world objects to show up in a virtual reality environment.
"During our initial explorations of VR, we were struck by the fact that keyboard use and text entry were necessary but not natural – and we've heard similar complaints from others," writes Vincent Tucker, Director Of Innovations & Strategy at Logitech. "Our motivation comes from the research-backed understanding that in certain situations the user still needs a keyboard to interact with applications, particularly in productivity-driven or desktop scenarios, but also in games, social applications and content browsing."
Logitech suggests having a proper keyboard to type on will enhance all kinds of VR experiences, from having your Windows desktop up in a VR space, to offering better control over games. It's certainly going to speed up the process of entering your Netflix password compared with pointing at one letter at a time with a motion controller.
Of course as this is virtual reality, you could easily remap certain keys to offer different functions as you go, or change fonts and colors in VR applications, or only have specific keys appear in front of you at specific times.
Logitech has already put together the basic building blocks of the code so that the keyboard and your hands will show up in any SteamVR-compatible app. Developers can now use what Logitech has put together, and adapt and expand it for their own apps and games. Expect to see the results appearing throughout next year.
Once developers have solved the problem of getting peripherals into the VR environment, there are plenty more challenges to overcome: Like making virtual reality worlds tactile, and allowing users to roam through worlds of unlimited size without leaving the confines of their gaming room.
You can see a demo of the technology in action in the video below.
Source: HTC Vive/Logitech