In September 2019, Oculus announced that they would release a hand tracking software update to their Oculus Quest. When this announcement was made it wasn’t certain they could pull it off. Well, they did. Starting early December 2019, they began rolling out software updates to enable hand tracking on the Quest headsets, albeit experimentally.
Ever since HTC and Oculus released their first headsets in 2016, there have been major advances made in the VR industry and hand tracking is just one of them. Let’s go back a couple of years and examine what the first headsets were like.
In 2016, Oculus, after being purchased by Facebook two years before then, released its first commercially available VR headset called Oculus Rift. About a week later, HTC, in partnership with Valve, came out with its own headset, HTC Vive. The two headsets have a lot of things in common. They are both PC-powered, they both have external tracking systems to give six degrees of freedom, and they both have motion controllers.
The downside to both of them is that they both required external sensors and a PC, which means you are restricted by the connection to the PC. This changed with the Oculus Quest, which introduced inside-out tracking usually referred to as Oculus Insight by Oculus. This enabled users to enjoy VR experiences without the need to set up external sensors. Several other headsets like HP Reverb and Samsung Odyssey+ implemented this feature soon afterward.
Up until the ending of 2017, VR headsets required an external device like a PC or console to power them. These changed in early 2018 when Lenovo launched the Mirage Solo, a standalone headset that runs on Google’s Daydream VR platform. The Mirage Solo does not require an external device as it is fully self-powered.
A couple of months after the Mirage Solo was released, Oculus also released the Oculus Go, a standalone headset just like the Mirage Solo. Several more standalone headsets such as the Quest and the Vive Cosmos were released the following year. Standalone headsets are definitely the future of VR headsets. But for now, if you want to enjoy the best possible VR experience, you are better off with a PC-powered headset.
While entertainment is the biggest of any VR applications, it is certainly not the only one. Virtual reality is now being used by companies like Walmart to train their employees. Institutions like the Singapore military are also looking into using VR to augment their training. Several other areas like healthcare and education also stand to benefit immensely from this industry.
The Future Of VR
In the coming years, we expect to see a lot more people gain interest in VR and probably purchase a headset as they get cheaper. More companies would begin to consider the use of VR to train their employee as they realize the benefits it brings to them.
In terms of hardware improvements, we hope to see more powerful standalone headsets powerful enough to take on PC-powered headsets. Also, most VR setups lack haptic feedback something that’s usually found in normal human interaction. This is necessary to contribute to a fully immersive experience. Companies like Ultraleap are already working on systems that simulate virtual touch and have working models that can be purchased.
On a side note, do check out some of the underrated simulation games to play as of 2020. Some of the games that are listed have great potential to be a successful VR application in the future.
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