Commentary

Get a Feel For Oculus Touch

Oculus, Facebook’s virtual reality acquisition, just released its new Oculus Touch peripheral, more closely aligning itself with HTC’s Vive from a control standpoint.

I’ve previously lamented the lack of standards and unification in control formats for VR, and while there still is no formal standard, the similarity of the Vive’s hand controls and the new Oculus Touch seems to be an informal parity developers can depend on.

Both controllers allow VR users to get a sense of actually reaching out and interacting with their virtual environment. With sensors around the controller tracking positional movement as users rotate their hands, their “virtual” hands rotate as well. The controllers have multiple buttons, but the most intuitive is the “grip” trigger that, as you squeeze it, is a very similar movement to clasping an object between one’s index finger and thumb.

With the two main “cutting edge” VR vendors in the market finally having a similar controller for VR interactions, it strongly suggests we’ll be seeing a de facto content design for user interaction within VR over the next two years or so. The general intuitiveness and ease of use of these control systems indicates downstream VR offerings (console/mobile) will follow suit. As it is, PlayStation VR and Google’s Daydream have similar controls available, though they remain different enough that I suspect we’ll see more tailored hardware for VR from both over time.

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A pervasive irony regarding VR advancements, and certainly true for the Oculus Touch, is that every step forward in advancing the medium brings the distance yet remaining into stark clarity. Indeed, for high-end VR, we’ve passed beyond the point where the brain instinctively reacts to the VR experience as being more real than the surrounding environment. But when the limitations of the simulation are revealed (such as by passing a hand through a solid object without resistance, or simply leaning against a wall and falling flat on your face), it stands out ever so much more, since the rest of the simulation is so believable.

The best example of this point is precisely what I mentioned above about falling flat on one’s face. No, this is not hyperbole -- people are literally leaning on virtual furniture and falling on their faces.

For the video selection this time, I’m posting two: One is from a snooker champion playing pool on the Vive, who in the desire to get a better shot, faceplants. The other is thanks to the new Oculus Touch, from a user at a Microsoft demo kiosk who, while virtual rock-climbing, avoids a virtual fall by leaning into a nonexistent cliff -- and then falls on his face.

In the case of VR, the experiences have become so absorbing, that part of the learning curve is learning to distrust your intuitive senses of reality.

VR Video:Virtual Pool Table Fall  Virtual Rock Climb Fall

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