There were several announcements at Oculus Connect 6 (OC6) this year that could have taken the top spot. Oculus Link for example or Medal of Honor: Above and Beyond are two worthy mentions, yet it must be the experimental hand tracking feature for Oculus Quest that takes home the crown, especially after testing the technology first-hand.
Hand tracking has always been one of those options that sound nice in principle, but would you actually pay for it, adding a Leap Motion device or something a little more extravagant like a data glove? Some probably would but for the majority, the lack of haptic feedback which you get with a bundled controller may not seem worthwhile just to wiggle your fingers.
However, if hand tracking is added as a free addition then suddenly this argument changes significantly. Even more so when it comes to the popular standalone Oculus Quest. What’s even more impressive is the fact that this device which can run almost Oculus Rift quality videogames, roomscale tracking and hand tracking all at the same time, with seemingly little issue.
It has long been known that Facebook Reality Labs (FRL) has been working on hand tracking technology for a while now. The ability to see your own hands in virtual reality (VR), perfectly replicated, with each bend of the knuckle or clench of a fist helping to add that extra level of immersion.
The demo shown at OC6 was a testament to the work FRL has been doing. While not 100% perfect, it was perfectly usable for what it was designed to do. A short sequence called Elixir by Magnopus, the demo put you in a wizard’s lair of sorts, with a cauldron bubbling away, tables strewn with experiments and more. All designed, of course, to get you to grab and touch various objects. There were fun and amusing moments where different objects turned the hands green, set them on fire or transformed them into tentacles.
In a way, all the theatrics weren’t needed, as it was completely enthralling watching each finger move and bend in real-time. The system expertly replicates each finger curling up, pinching and even keeps up with light waving. And the tracking field seemed almost the same as the Oculus Touch controllers, maybe just a little tighter at the extremities.
As mentioned, it’s not entirely perfect as the system is still in development, with the most notable instance of struggle was occlusion. Because of the single viewpoint of the Oculus Quest cameras, the system can’t handle putting one hand behind the other. Doing so would simply fade both hands out, making them reappear once two individual hands could be detected. VRFocus also learnt another little issue that could make tracking erratic was long sleeves or other items obscuring the wrists such as jewellery or wrist bands. Wearing a watch didn’t seem to cause any problems during VRFocus’ test.
Hand tracking on Oculus Quest will add another feather to the headsets cap when it’s made available in 2020. It might not see widespread implementation straight away as developers get used to adding the tech to their experiences, but it’ll be a feature they can’t ignore. What was shown at OC6 this week certainly impressed and VRFocus can’t wait to see the feature rollout, ideal for titles that have plenty of hand interaction like The Wizards or Job Simulator.