Back in May Steam announced a new SteamVR input system that was designed to allow developers to more easily support existing and future controllers, offering gamers to more easily customize their controls. Now, Steam have revealed their next part of this system which will allow virtual reality (VR) titles to gather extra information from the controller about what the player’s body is doing. As hardware is able to provide information on the position of the user’s hand and fingers, SteamVR Skeletal Input is being developed to facilitate the innovation and development of controller maker capture for user’s hands.
By using a controller to map and capture the postion of the user’s hand as accurately as their sensors are able, and provide it as a stream of animation data to the running application, developers can create animated hands in VR that mimic that of the user in real-time. The data is also able to be used in addition to developer made animations to add any extra layer of detail and realism to the user experience.
The benefit of this new system for users is that they will be able to use new controllers with their favourite titles without the need for developers to release a patch to support the new controller. Developers will no longer need to create unique animations for each VR controller as the system will help fill the gaps by providing that real-time animation data. SteamVR Skeletal Input also means that hardware makers can continues to innovate within the VR space, all while knowing their drivers for a controller will work with any title that supports the new SteamVR Skeletal Input system.
Controller drivers will be able to provide two animation streams to applications for each controller: one stream tracks the estimated pose of the user’s hand with the second stream providing a range of motion for the hand as if there was no controller in the way. Developers will then be able to choose which of these streams to sample from based on the current context of the title such as if the user is holding an object or if the hand is empty within virtual space.
Developers who are interested in making use of the SteamVR Skeletal Input system can find the documentation on the OpenVR GitHub Wiki with Unity developers able to access an early release of the plugin and Skeletal Input API now. The full SDK will be made available to developers very soon. The initial beta release of the system supports the Vive wants, Oculus Touch and the new Knuckles EV2 controllers, with many more to come in the future.
For all the latest on the SteamVR Skeletal Input system, keep reading VRFocus.