Virtual Reality

The Benefits of Hand Tracking in Virtual Reality

October 2, 2020
An illustration of VR Hand Tracking

The main purpose of virtual reality is to create an experience different from reality as we know it, but just as real. Over the years, several advancements in VR technology have been made, gradually making VR a reality, from spatial audio to wireless headsets to the possibility of six degrees of freedom. Because of these improvements, you can move around your virtual experience, and look in every direction.

But just like in real life, we need to be able to interact with this virtual reality. We should be able to touch things, pick up things and manipulate things in a virtual world. To make this possible, VR companies like Oculus, Vive and Valve designed controllers that people can use to interface with their virtual world. These controllers give the users the ability to do simple things such as pointing, gripping objects, giving the thumbs-up sign, and whatever function the programmers of a virtual world want.

And there lies the problem. The controllers can only do things they were programmed to do. Because of this limitation, companies like Oculus set out to develop a hand-tracking system in their VR headsets. Oculus, last year successfully launched a hand-tracking system in its VR headset making it the first VR company to do so. The feature is currently experimental and can be toggled on or off. It doesn’t have much use in VR experiences for now, as developers are yet to take advantage of it.

There are several benefits to hand-tracking systems as opposed to controllers like the Touch (Oculus) or Knuckles (Valve).

It Enables A More Immersive Experience

One of the goals of VR experiences is to trick you into believing the things you see in a virtual world are real. While this effect is achieved by most VR headset to a large extent, it’s still not a completely immersive experience. One reason for that is the use of controllers to interface with virtual worlds. For starters, there are certain things you can’t do with controllers in the virtual world.

The few things you can normally do with your hands that have been replicated with controllers do not feel natural. You have to press certain buttons to get your hands to do something, such as making a thumbs-up sign for example. There are several other gestures and motions that the hand can make that controllers just can’t replicate.  A hand tracking system would make making such gestures effortless and natural.

Lesser Hardware

Well, this is a no-brainer. With hand-tracking, you no longer need controllers to interface with virtual worlds. This would save you the cost of buying them. Also, you won’t have to worry about batteries going dead and having to constantly charge them. Your hands certainly don’t need electricity to function.

Zero Learning Curve

Just like any new device, you have to learn how to use the controllers. For every virtual world, you want to experience especially games, you have to learn what each button does in the game as the developers map them to different functions. For gamers, this is probably not new as they have gotten used to learning new button combinations and usages.

But for people who use VR for more serious purposes like training sessions and the likes, it could take a while before they master what each button does. But when it’s just your hands, there is almost nothing new to learn. You have been using your hands to carry out tasks almost from the time you were born. All you would need to do in most cases is to replicate familiar actions.

Conclusion

So there you have it. You can expect that hand-tracking would be the future of VR interactions once it has been perfected. In some years’ time, controllers might be rendered obsolete.

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