Mark Zuckerberg Teases Glove-Based Advanced Hand Tracking Research From Oculus

by Ian Hamilton • February 9th, 2017

Mark Zuckerberg just posted to his personal account on Facebook a first-ever peek inside Oculus Research, a lab based in Redmond, Washington dedicated to VR and AR advancements.

The lab is headed up by Michael Abrash, who left Valve Software in 2014 to join Facebook/Oculus and lead this team exploring what’s needed to improve on the state of mixed reality technology.

In fact, the featured photo above shows gloves allowing Zuckerberg to “draw, type on a virtual keyboard, and even shoot webs like Spider Man.” Notably, the researcher’s hardware appears to use fairly expensive Optitrack cameras for the system rather than the buggy Oculus Sensor tracking system the company used for the consumer Rift.

oculus-research-inside

Hand tracking is an incredibly difficult problem to solve in VR given the many quick and precise movements your fingers do that might be hard to spot using a camera, or a pain to calibrate using gloves. Developing software and an inexpensive hardware system that can track these movements accurately on anyone could push VR and AR forward.

oculus-lab-suitsZuckerberg’s caption on this photo reads “When you manufacture really small pieces, you have to keep every surface clean to avoid defects. This clean room filters out particles 1000x smaller than a speck of dust,” giving a hint at the core manufacturing work they are doing to work on new technologies. 

“We’ve built labs that let us quickly make new kinds of lenses and devices to push the boundaries of virtual and augmented reality. The includes a Diamond Turning Lab that cuts metal with a gemstone quality diamond, and this 5-axis CNC milling machine,” his caption on the below photo reads.

diamonds

Abrash has spoken publicly in the past to outline what the future holds for VR, and his work makes him one of the world’s leading experts on the technical constraints facing VR. Though this look inside his lab at Oculus Research is little more than a tease, it does offer us a new perspective on just how serious Facebook is in its ambitions for better VR and AR.

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  • GodMk2

    So you only need 9 cameras for hand tracking 😉

    • GodMk2

      Ooops, I was joking, I originally thought they were actually a 9.1 surround sound system, but yep they are indeed cameras. I better go and order some USB expansion cards before they are out of stock.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Yep Lighthouse will track all those various motions of a hand just fine, perhaps with what, maybe 30 to 40 trackers? Think man, think… it’s not hard if you try and you’ll get better at it.

        • GodMk2

          You should do the thinking yourself. I didn’t say you need to use lighthouses, you could just wear a glove with haptics and electromechanical ribbon pressure sensors. No one, i mean no one is going to have a setup like that 9 cameras on a frame.

    • Nicholas

      What a cabling nightmare!

  • VR Geek

    Funny how it looks like they are not using constellation tracking on the Rift here. I wonder why? LOL

    • Get Schwifty!

      LOL you realize its camera based right? Same basic technology…

      • VR Geek

        It is valid question. There is the STEM system (razor hydra predecessor) which is apparently still coming out but your are right, no one else seems to be a delivering anything like lighthouse. Perhaps Vavle has the tech locked down? Seems off given how good it is.

        • Caven

          Valve is in the process of patenting Lighthouse. Unless the patent application is denied due to prior art, developing a competing system would be a legal risk.

  • NooYawker

    Looks like he’s doing a Spider-Man hand gesture. Would love a Spider-Man game.

  • Nicholas

    Can it do…roomscale?

    • Get Schwifty!

      Yes.

    • rabs

      Yes, one cubic meter room scale.

  • Brad

    I wanna know if that “OCULUS” going down that hall in the second picture really looks like that, or if that’s Photoshopped. That would be super trippy to see in person if it were really like that.

    • rabs

      Artists are doing tons of anamorphosis in the streets around here, seems it’s popular since a few years. Though that’s very cool to have in the office, best part of the article for me.

      Showing that they bought serious hardware for research is less surprising. But using motion capture style hardware and glove for finger tracking is not very reassuring… At least they are not leaking new technology there.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    WOW 12 camera at least…. gotta love those USB ports !!
    🙂

  • This is clearly a marketing move. That hand tracking will be nowhere similar to the one they’ll have on Rift (too expensive, etc…). Then he says that they filter dust there but doesn’t wear a white suit…

    • Scott C

      He’s not going into the clean room.

  • Daniel García

    Laughable “we still exist” PR move after recent court room and meme magick missteps. That first shot looks like he’s “stimulating” a motion capture camera manufacturer. More than 10 expensive cameras and he’s still sitting down, still not considering roomscale. Everyone can do gloves/hands with thousands of cameras. This is no news. He covers his laptop’s webcam but he’s expecting us to cover our living spaces with cameras connected to his servers? He seems to be the only one laughing. Where is Luckey?

    • Ombra Alberto

      It is a test station for the gloves.
      It does not matter whether sitting in. No matter the room scale. These latter studies they are apart.

      The tracking sensors seem much more robust and similar to Vive Lighthouses.

  • JSM21

    I love how some of you guys actually are dumb enough to think you would need all those tracking cameras/sensors to use the gloves…. use common sense for once when you look at a picture and not ASSume from a glance.