Hand tracking VR as a technology doesn’t often appear on the radar. Leap Motion, a pioneer in hand tracking, was poised to kill the mouse and keyboard and raised $50 million in 2017. It was rumoured that Apple wanted to buy it, but eventually, the company was acquired recently by a rival company named Ultrahaptics. Now under Ultraleap, they’ve joined forces to facilitate engaging, natural spatial interaction between people and machines. For now, it’s hard to say what will be the big thing from them. An AR headset for $100? A controller combining hand tracking and mid-air haptics? Or both?
Oculus launched hand tracking for Oculus Quest last month, with Navah Berg, a social VR influencer tried it and told VRScout, “Removing controllers makes the experience so much more real because moving freely without equipment in your hands gives you the feeling of freedom and ultimate reality.” At the same time, Ben Lang from Road to VR says it’d be better for casual input.
Does it mean it’s not for gaming purposes? It may look like that, but in fact, it’s the opposite.
Now you can bring your non-gamer friends and family
Casual is good when we’re talking about out-of-home entertainment. Amusement parks and attractions appeal to a much broader audience than videogames or arcade venues. And this kind of audience — the kids, the teenagers, the moms and dads, the elders, groups of friends and colleagues — is much more like the mobile games audience (as the opposite to PC gamers). They love casual games. They love to be entertained and amused. And they don’t want to work hard to make it happen. And hand tracking is as easy as entertaining.
So you can invite your old folks or friends and colleagues with no videogame experience. Acting with bare hands is the most intuitive thing to do, so it’d be easy for them to adapt.
Jorge Torales, CEO at Torch VR, a VR park in Prague, the Czech Republic said: “When people grab controllers, they are like ‘Ah, okay, this is a videogame’. And when they see their hands in VR thanks to hand tracking tech, they are like ‘Wow, I’m actually inside the game right now. Shortly followed by the realization that their friends and family are there with them”
On top of that, people expect something special when they deal with hand tracking. Olga Glagoleva, an owner of ‘Outreality’ VR centre located in a small Russian city, says that a group of customers declined to play any VR title with controllers because they ‘didn’t come here to play videogames, and were promised to visit an attraction’.
What you can actually do in the game?
In videogames developed by Avatarico which Jorge and Olga are using, players can see their hands and manipulate objects. You can even feel the phantom feel of touch. In order to move, you can fly, swim and ride vehicles. It’s always fun to communicate with your teammates with gestures in addition to voice chat. You can literally make a hi-five. And on top of that, you have some superpowers like telekinesis, shooting fireballs and lasers with bare hands.
What else should I know?
These experiences are seated ones. Players physically sit in chairs while flying, swimming and driving vehicles in the videogames. But how much fun is sitting? One is used to sitting in the amusement parks while flying, bouncing, riding and driving. This is just the same.
At this point, you may ask ‘What about motion sickness?’. Keeping the same metaphor, you may feel uncomfortable like you do at the attraction in an amusement park. It’s an individual thing, and there are tools to make it comfortable for you. First of all, you shouldn’t push your body to the limits. When you go to outer space in the experience, you should keep in mind that you can always ask for help, and there will be a person to help you. A game operator will guide you through the videogame, helping you on each stage.
What games are available?
Currently, there are only a few location-based entertainment (LBE) venues offering hand tracking titles. Avatarico’s Cosmos and Mind Horror are two examples. The first is an adventure about escaping a space station ready to explode, destroying robots and flying in zero gravity. The latter is about infiltrating the mind of the serial killer, fighting his nightmares and solving mind-twisting puzzles.
Where can I try it?
Although there are more than 50 locations across the globe running hand tracking videogames, here are some recommendations: