After first announcing the coming option at its 'Oculus Connect' conference back in September, Facebook's virtual reality arm has now launched the first consumer release of hand-tracking, a major advance in VR connectivity.
As explained by Oculus:
"From gesturing and communicating with others to picking up and manipulating objects, our hands play an important role in how we interact with the world - and they’re key to unlocking the feeling of true presence in a virtual space. We first brought your hands into VR with Oculus Touch controllers, so you could engage in VR in a more natural way. Now, we’re taking the next step with hand tracking on Oculus Quest - letting you interact in VR without controllers, using your real hands."
As you can see from the video above, hand tracking will make it easier than ever for VR users to interact with the virtual environment. The update is a major step, as it lessens the hardware requirements for VR engagement, while also making the process feel more natural - and therefore, more immersive.
In its initial iteration, the functionality will be limited:
"In this first release, you can use your hands to navigate and interact within Quest’s Home interfaces like Library and Store, plus in select first-party apps like the Oculus Browser and Oculus TV."
Oculus Quest owners will need to update their device to version 12 when it rolls out, then turn on hand tracking in the 'Experimental Features' menu to use it.
In addition to this, Oculus is also adding hand tracking to its SDK for developers, which will enable third-party organizations to formulate new ways to utilize the option.
Facebook sees VR as the next level of social media connectivity, and it's already built a specific VR world for such purpose within the Oculus network. But for that to happen, VR needs significant consumer take-up.
Thus far, while VR looks interesting, the actual content available has remained fairly limited, with developers still not jumping on board to build a heap of consumer content. Tools like hand tracking could change that, and change it fast, and as VR devices become more affordable, it's not hard to envision that next stage coming sometime soon.
Hand tracking will be made available to Oculus Quest users starting this week.