Oculus Quest can now give you beautifully tracked virtual hands in VR
The Oculus Quest is an extraordinary, standalone virtual reality device that needs no wires, no high-end gaming PCs and no wall-mounted tracking cameras. I'm a big fan of this zero-barrier-to-entry VR headset, as you may have gleaned from our review, and I'm not alone – it regularly sells out as soon as new batches are produced and released, and it's pretty difficult to get your hands on.
The Quest has cameras all over it, which it uses in many fascinating ways. One of those is to track your motion within a room. Another, which has been an experimental feature up until now, is to watch your hands.
Hand tracking allows you to drop the Quest's two controllers and use your own hands in virtual space, which is pretty amazing to play with in an immersive sense. The tracking is surprisingly good, and adds an extra punch to the sense of immersion in VR.
Of course, there's a moment of disconnect when you go to touch something and it's not really there – but having your fingers stop visually when they touch the surface of the object works well and feels good.
Quest users will get a new menu section for hand control settings, and will be able to use hand tracking for navigation, gesture control and setting Guardian boundaries so you don't bump into stuff.
Now that it's an official Quest feature, Oculus will begin accepting submissions for apps that use hand tracking, beginning on May 28. At this stage, it works in the Unity engine, and the team is working on making it available to Unreal engine developers as well.
To get a sense of what it looks like, at least in 2D, check out the demo video below, for Waltz of the Wizard by Aldin Dynamics. This game uses hand tracking in some interesting ways to make you feel like you've got magic powers.
We see this as just another example of how damn clever the Quest is in removing barriers to amazing VR experiences. At this stage, it's held back a little by its processing power; you can only fit so much brains into one device when it's light enough to wear on your head for hours. Dedicating CPU space to hand tracking will doubtless constrain how much you can do graphically, and the Quest isn't amazing for graphics.
But Oculus is surely working on a second-gen version of this remarkable piece of kit that'll step things up a level, and if this hand tracking can get good enough to ditch the hand controllers altogether, it'll be a huge leap forward for VR in general.
Source: Oculus developer blog