A patent application filed today by Oculus indicates the Facebook-owned virtual reality team is researching new kinds of hand controllers.
The company’s current solution for bringing your hands with you into a VR experience is Oculus Touch. According to this site, Touch is the best VR hand tracking system available for consumer purchase today. However, this new patent demonstrates that Oculus is not content to rest upon those laurels and is currently working to design newer and more powerful VR hand controllers. This particular patent is for:
“A control for a virtual reality (VR) system contacting areas of user’s body is comprised of one or more materials having different stiffnesses at different positions of the control. In various embodiments, portions of the control contacting an area of the user’s body with a relatively limited range of motion comprise stiffly woven material to limit movement of the control. Conversely, portions of the control contacting an area of the user’s body with a relatively larger range or motion comprise softly woven material to allow the control to more easily move as the corresponding area of the user’s body moves.”
The basic idea for this patent seems to be for a glove with different amounts of rigidity at certain key points. Unfortunately, the sole drawing submitted with this patent doesn’t shed too much light on the concept of this particular idea.
We’ve seen claw-like exoskeletons in the past meant to pull back the fingers in precise ways to simulate grasping objects. Gloves are also being pursued as well to perform finger tracking. Many of these devices, however, are merely concepts or are either expensive and require careful calibration to use. Steps forward in hand tracking and haptics will take much effort to refine, and the inventors of this idea are listed as living in Washington. That’s where the Oculus research lab is that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently visited to tease advanced hand tracking. So this single idea is likely part of the much larger effort underway at Facebook’s Oculus to advance hand tracking.
Like all patents, take this one with a grain of salt. It’s not clear whether or not we will ever see this idea realized in a final project. However, we can say for certain that Oculus is continuing, at least in some capacity, to develop new hand control technologies for VR.