The Groundbreaking Experience Offered by the Oculus Touch
Last June 2015, Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey announced that they are expanding their virtual reality headset “Rift”, a competitor of Samsung Gear VR, by creating touch controllers that simulate the sensation of touch and gesturing. In simplest terms, they enable users to throw Frisbees, pick up guns, and carry out other tasks in the virtual world by doing the real actions in the real world. Oculus Touch, which is now considered to be the first Input Device for Oculus Rift, aims to further dilute the line between what’s real and what’s not.
First Showcase of the Controllers
In the same month they were officially announced, the Rift and Oculus Touch were showcased in the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. Luckey has said that the Oculus Touch would surprise people because it would deliver a different kind of VR experience and he did not disappoint.
During selected expos and conferences, interested people could try using Oculus Touch in playing touch-enabled games made by the same company. These games include the Bullet Train, which is a first-person shooter game, and Medium, which is a sculpting application. In a real account of a first-time user of the controller, it has been found that positioning one’s hand on a half-moon shaped device is harder than it looks like. However, once positioned, getting used to it is not a problem. Moving one’s hand is the easiest part. However, in order to fully enjoy the controller’s features, one has to learn how to navigate with the triggers, buttons, and the analog joystick.
Then: Highlighting Half Moon’s Features
The prototype of Oculus Touch, named Half Moon, is composed of two controllers that have an analog thumbstick, analog trigger, and two buttons. It also has an input mechanism, called the “hand trigger”, which has refreshingly made virtual shooting games even more realistic.
In order to freely interact with the virtual world created by Rift, the controllers are made wireless. They use the system that can be found in the Rift to ensure that tracking is precise and has low latency. These features are then topped with haptics so that Half Moon can interact with all the surrounding things in the virtual world more easily.
Lastly, Half Moon can identify the user’s finger poses like waving, pointing, and making a thumbs-up with the use of a matrix of sensors. The sensors set on the device translate the gestures into communicative commands and reflect them on the virtual world.
Now: What’s Changed with the 2016 Prototype
Fourteen months after the E3, several significant advances in the device’s ergonomics has been made and implemented to make Touch even more reliable and comfortable. Jason Rubin, the Head of Content in Oculus has revealed that the Touch VR controllers are almost near completion. He has further said that it now has greater distance from the sensors and allows better tracking. But just how different is it from the last prototype?
At the E3 2016, the latest version of Oculus Touch was displayed. While the changes are subtle, they are still visible. For instance, the controllers’ design and button placements are modified, the ergonomics refined, and the shape and size polished. The triggers are also easier to push and the analog thumbsticks become more resistant with the use of rubberized grip. A random grill, which serves as a resting place for a user’s thumb, can be seen on the surface of the controller.
This latest version is still a prototype and more additions will be added until the final product is finally released. Brendan Iribe, Oculus CEO, has tweeted that over 5000 Touch developer kits will come to the hands of developers before the device’s launch.
Future: What to Expect with the Final Version
While there’s no official report of the features that will come with the final version of Oculus Touch, previous prototypes have given enough hints about them. Here’s what we know so far:
- Manipulation– It allows you to precisely manipulate virtual objects that can be seen through the Rift. Its low mental load makes this interaction with the objects almost effortless.
- Hand presence– In the virtual world, your virtual hand is a real equivalent of your real physical hand. Touch will track your hand movements with accuracy
- Communicative movements– Since hand gestures are detected, Touch will be able to create a more social interaction with the visual world.
- Transitional inputs– Gamepad inputs like the stick, buttons, and triggers links traditional gaming experience to new VR games.
- User-friendly– The controllers are designed to be ergonomic and lightweight so as to give maximum comfort to users.
Launching Details of the Oculus Touch
People who are aching to get their hands on the Touch will have to wait until the second half of 2016, a delay that means missing the first quarter launch of the Oculus Rift. The reason for this delay is fully explained by the team, who deems that the controllers’ hand-pose recognition could still be improved.
While the news on extended launch date has put some people down, some are patiently waiting for the best version of Touch.
On June 2016, Oculus team has announced the launching of Touch will come with more than 30 full VR games, including 20 new titles. The games are all designed to create an immersive gaming experience which one can only fully enjoy when using the touch controllers.
Launch titles include games from the Oculus Studios (like Dead & Buried), Harmonix (Rock Band VR), Sanzaru (VR Sports Challenge), Crytek (The Climb), Croteam (The Last Hope), Opus (Pro Fishing Challenge), Schell Games (Expect You to Die), and many more.
The most anticipated addition to the Touch might be Medium, Oculus’ virtual sculpting tool. Medium uses the controller in making a creative ground for tactile and immersive VR drawing experience. It makes sculpting easier and more accessible to people who don’t necessarily have skills in creating a sculpture in real life.
Oculus Touch is a tool that could trigger a whole new Virtual Reality gaming experience. However, with Medium’s promising future, we know that its function goes beyond games. This device is definitely something to look forward to this 2016.