In brief: We have seen all kinds of attempts to make the virtual reality experience more immersive. From treadmills to haptic feedback gloves, developers have seemingly tried everything except the most obvious — simple hand tracking. We knew it was coming next year, but Oculus says that it is available now — well, almost.
Back in September, Oculus announced that it would be bringing gesture controls to its Quest VR headset. The feature was not supposed to debut until sometime in early 2020. However, it would seem the development team could not wait.
On Monday, Oculus revealed that gesture controls would be added as an “experimental” feature to the Quest later this week. Version 12 of the Quest software will now have an experimental tab under which users can activate hand tracking. Team Oculus also made it easy to switch between hand tracking and controllers by including a toggle on the main screen.
The feature is not quite at the point where users can ditch their controllers altogether, though. They will be able to manipulate the main Quest interface and some first-party apps like Oculus TV and the web browser. Controllers will still be needed for games and other apps.
While uses for gesture control are limited, for now, Oculus said that it would be releasing a hand-tracking SDK to third-party developers next week. It seems that with most games, this feature would not be practical, but once studios get their hands on the SDK, they will most assuredly start brainstorming creative ways to put the technology to use.
The company also promised that what you see now is only the beginning. It is still in the process of refining and adding more functionality to the hand-tracking component. It says much of what it is working on will be available in the full release next year.