The first thing you want to do in virtual reality is reach out and touch the world around you. It doesn’t exist, of course. There’s no way to manipulate what feels like reality, even though it’s just virtual reality fooling your brain with a very high-resolution image.
That isn’t stopping Facebook’s virtual reality company, Oculus VR, from trying to make that dream a reality. Oculus founder Palmer Luckey announced a motion-control device named “Oculus Touch” on Thursday at an Oculus VR press event in San Francisco.
The device is actually two devices — one for each hand — and they will act as a stand-in for your actual hands when inside of the Oculus Rift headset.
This is what Oculus Touch looks like:
The device features a variety of buttons and analogue thumbsticks, the type found on traditional video game controllers. It also has a variety of sensors outside and in that Luckey said will enable, “communicative gestures,” such as pointing, waving, or giving a thumbs up. The controller features a form of feedback known as “haptics,” which act as a means of receiving physical feedback.
Perhaps if you touch something in VR that’s electrified, the controller will vibrate wildly (for instance). That is “haptic” feedback. It convinces your hand that it’s interacting with something that isn’t there, essentially — a crucial component for tricking your brain into thinking it’s actually touching what you’re seeing in virtual reality.
The device shown on stage was a prototype known as “Half Moon” (presumably because of its shape). The company is showing more of the controller next week at the game industry’s annual trade show, E3, in Los Angeles.