Tech

Surprise! Oculus Quest becomes first VR set with native hand tracking—this week

  • Let's fly through the skies with Oculus Quest hand tracking. (Be warned: this is a 360-degree video within a media app, not a hand-compatible VR game.) Oculus
  • So long as you hold your hands in front of the camera, they'll track accurately with pretty much every hand position you can think of. Unless both hands touch. The system isn't good at recognizing when hands come together.
  • In a media-playing app, pinch in open space to bring up a full interface.
  • Pinch-and-hold to scroll up and down through text.
  • Pinch-and-hold to seek through time and volume sliders.
  • Yes, a thumbs-up gesture will work without issue. Whether any software will natively recognize that gesture remains to be seen.
  • Perusing an Instagram feed as rendered in Quest's Web browser.
  • Pinch to click anywhere on a webpage.
  • Scrolling through apps.

Starting this week, the Oculus Quest VR headset becomes even more tantalizing by adding a feature we've never seen ship as a built-in option in a VR system: hand tracking. VR users will be able to put down their controllers and use their fingers to manipulate VR worlds, as tracked by Quest's array of built-in cameras.

The feature received a tease at October's Oculus Connect 6 conference and got an "early 2020" launch window from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. But someone on the Oculus engineering team clearly ignored Lord Zuck in getting this feature out the door a bit early, and it will land in an "experimental" tab in Quest's settings menus as a free update by week's end.

Today's news comes with two important asterisks. First, there's no fully fledged VR software available for the feature yet. At launch, the experimental feature will only work within Oculus Quest's root menu, which at least includes photo and multimedia viewing tabs. Within "a week" of the toggle going live, a Software Development Kit (SDK) for Quest hand tracking will go live for Oculus developers, which will allow them to tap into Oculus' hand-tracking system and potentially implement it in various games and apps.

And second, Oculus is limiting its hand-tracking framework to the Quest ecosystem. This update isn't coming to the PC-centric Rift or Rift S headsets, and it won't work if you use Oculus Link to connect a Quest to your favorite PC VR games.

First of its kind, for a reason

Normally in VR, users grab onto controllers full of triggers and buttons. For some VR software, a piece of handheld plastic makes sense: it can sell the sensation of holding a weapon or VR item, and it adds haptic feedback like rumbling when your real-life hand gets near VR objects. But there's something to be said about lifting your empty hands in the VR sky and seeing your real fingers wiggle, which, based on pre-release tests, we can confirm Oculus Quest hand tracking nails.

We've seen hand-tracking experiments on other VR headsets, but these have largely come in the form of proprietary add-ons like Leap Motion, which require additional hardware and a bolted-on rendering pipeline. These systems have been impressive enough as tested at various tech expos, but VR hand tracking has always been underwhelming in execution—just imprecise enough, in terms of recognizing individual fingers and "pinch" gestures, compared to the "it just works" appeal of a compatible controllerRead More – Source