One of the reasons that the HTC Vive was so much more popular than the Oculus Rift is because it included two motion controlled 3d tracked controllers. Oculus eventually released their own motion tracked 3d controllers which were slightly more advanced that HTC’s offering. They included touch sensitive control areas that allowed developers to display virtual representations of the user’s hands and finger placements on the controller itself. This added an extra layer of immersion that impressed most users.
Apparently, HTC and Valve are firing back. Their new “Knuckles” motion controller ups the ante on touch sensitive areas. This is a good thing. The large amount of touch sensitive zones found on the HTC Vive controller demonstrates that HTC and Valve have been hard at work developing similar finger tracking approaches that Oculus pioneered with last year’s late to the game Oculus Rift controllers.
The quick start guide that was released this week provides most the information that I will go over here. If you want to check it out yourself here is a link: http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=943406651
The guide shows the shape and button configurations that will be found on HTC/Valve’s new controllers. First of all, on each controller is a face button which is located next to a small trackpad. Below this is a system button. There is a trigger button on the bottom directly beneath the trackpad. This button configuration will provide developers a ton of flexibility.
The aforementioned setup guide reveals that these controllers are going to be powered by micro USB which is located near the base of the controller. No USB C? Come on, HTC and Valve, by the time these controllers come out… USB C will be two years on the market. Get with the times!
It gets interesting when one considers how to actually use these controllers. The GIFs provided below show people actually using the new HTC Vive controllers. From the first of the GIFs, we can ascertain a few important things about the controller.
First of all, the controller can be attached to a user’s hand through a side insert. This allows the controller to detect an open hand gesture. As can be seen in the multi-colored diagram above, the controller’s main stem has 5 sensor zones that can detect an open-handed gesture, a pointing gesture, and presumably much more.
With 5 sensor zones, a higher variety of hand gestures and movements can be detected and represented in virtual reality. This is important because providing realistic representations of a user’s hands greatly increases the experience of virtual presence – the experience of existing and being embodied in another virtual world.
The new HTC Vive controllers should last about 3 hours on each charge. They take about 1 hour to charge. As to when these controllers will hit the market?
It’s anyone’s guess at this point. Given that this much material and information has been released, it seems like these controllers should drop sooner rather than later. With full finger tracking, smart adult app developers will be able to provide some pretty interesting and immersive virtual experiences for users very soon.