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Hands-on with Oculus Quest hand tracking

Oculus Quest hand tracking update (December 2019)
Oculus Quest hand tracking update (December 2019)

Oculus released an update to the Oculus Quest to add hand tracking (ahead of scheduled 2020 release).  I got to try it out and it is quite impressive.

Oculus Quest is the most popular VR headset in the market, and it is getting even better.  This week, Oculus is rolling out an update (version 12) that adds hand tracking, which was first announced at Oculus Connect 6.

Hand tracking is exactly as it sounds — you’ll be able to use your hands as controllers.   In the case of the Oculus Quest, it will even track individual finger movements.  This not only makes interacting more intuitive, but it also makes it possible to perform actions that would otherwise be difficult with regular VR controllers, such as playing a game of rock-paper-scissors.

Hand tracking had previously been possible on a few other systems.  For example, Valve Index Controllers have pressure sensitive grips that can detect individual finger pressure.  Leap Motion also created an accessory that could track the user’s hands using computer vision.

Like Leap Motion, Oculus Quest’s hand tracking also uses computer vision.  What is surprising is that Oculus was able to add that feature to the Quest on a standalone VR headset that runs on a mobile Snapdragon 835 chipset, in addition to its 6DOF VR tracking capability.

Does it work?

Yes, Oculus Quest’s hand tracking works very well, and tracks individual finger movements with good accuracy.  However, there is a little bit of lag, which makes it hard to use it for action games.  Another issue is that if you turn your hand so that some of your fingers are not visible, the Quest cannot track your finger movements accurately.  Finally, unlike regular controllers, there is no vibration or haptic feedback.

Nonetheless, the Quest’s hand tracking is amazing, and I believe it can be useful for social VR games, such as Rec Room (where I’m sure some people will be eager to use it to give the international one-finger salute).  For now, though the hand tracking is usable only in the Quest’s main menu.

Oculus hasn’t said whether they are also bringing hand tracking to the Rift S, although in theory, the Rift S should be capable of tracking your hands as well.

How to get the update

Use your phone’s Oculus app to check for updates, or go to the Settings … About … menu of the Quest and look for the option to update your firmware.  Hand tracking is available in version 12 of the app.

After installing the update, you should find the hand tracking option under Experimental Features in the Settings.  You may have to reboot one more time to see the update.

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Mic Ty


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