Oculus’ Next VR Hand Controller May Be A Self-Tracking Glove

by Joe Durbin • April 14th, 2017

In December of last year, Oculus released its Touch controllers for the Rift virtual reality system, but a replacement may be on the way sooner rather than later. According to a patent application filed yesterday with the USPTO by Oculus, the Facebook-owned team has designed a self-tracking VR glove.

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The patent titled “Optical Hand Tracking in Virtual Reality Systems” reads as follows:

A system [that] tracks movement of the VR input device relative to a portion of a user’s skin, track movement of the VR input device relative to a physical surface external to the VR input device, or both. The system includes an illumination source integrated with a tracking glove coupled to a virtual reality console, and the illumination source is configured to illuminate a portion of skin on a finger of a user.

The system includes an optical sensor integrated with the glove, and the optical sensor is configured to capture a plurality of images of the illuminated portion of skin. The system includes a controller configured to identify differences between one or more of the plurality of images, and to determine estimated position data based in part on the identified differences.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 12.47.25 PM

As described, this type of tracking seems to be different than Oculus’ current Constellation tracking system, in which external optical sensors detect infrared light pulses emitted by the object being tracked to determine where the device is located in 3D space.

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 12.48.19 PMThe difference between this patent and the traditional Constellation system lies mainly in the image capture devices, which are not external sensors but are instead attached directly to the glove itself.

Last week, an additional Oculus patent provided a very vague look at an idea for potential VR gloves, but this more recent filing is much more detailed.

This is the second patent in as many weeks concerning VR hand controllers for Oculus. The Oculus Touch controllers have been received well by customers and critics alike. However, with other companies like Valve teasing fresh takes on hand tracking, Oculus can’t afford to rest on its laurels. We’ve seen Oculus test out temperature differentiation as well as other glove-based devices recently in the past, as well.

Next week is Facebook’s F8 developer conference in San Jose and rumors are starting to swell that the company will be showing fresh VR tech at the show. It’s possible we’ll have more news or even see a prototype of the new Oculus hand controllers at that time.

F8 begins on Tuesday, April 18, so check UploadVR then for more details.

Editor’s note: This article previously referred to the illuminating devices as sensors, not emitters. Additional changes were made to the description of how Constellation tracking works and relates to this patent. 

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  • xebat

    Again, i will repeat this, if Oculus or any other High End HMD producer doesn’t go Lighthouse for their next HMDs they can go f# themselves.

    • Get Schwifty!

      Or something better than Lighthouse…

    • blue5peed

      Nice DP commander.

    • Nilok

      I mean, it isn’t like lighthouse has any issues with refective surfaces causing false inputs on the photo sensors from a lighthouse base station. /s

      Both constellation and lighthouse have their positives and negatives. Constellation requires more overhead when adding more sensors, lighthouse has issues if there are reflective surfaces to bounce the laser back at an odd angle creating a “phantom” base station. Constellation prevents the reflective issue by have every led strobe with a specific ID, while lighthouse has all the calculations run via the photo sensors and is more scalable.

      I guess the real question is how many sensors and how large a space do you plan to use.
      If you want to move beyond a single room, neither constellation nor lighthouse would work best, as you would need inside out tracking like Google’s Project Tango.

      • Joan Villora Jofré

        Constellation only gets photografs of the pixels of infrared light. What do yo mean with ID for every led?

        • Nilok

          The LEDs flicker at specific intervals. Each of these intervals are different for every LED on the device. Using these known flicker speed, the constellation software has a specific number for every LED and knows what should be “connected” to it in the constellation and what device it is on.

          • Joan Villora Jofré

            I think it does not go like this, they do not know the ids of the LEDs, every Constellation take a photo per device to track, one for the HMD and one for each Touch, to be able to differentiate the clouds of points. Every point is just a píxel in the photografs.

          • Nilok

            I tried to post an image including the constellation system with all its ID markers for the DK1 in my post, but it wasn’t approved. I will attempt again.

    • Buddydudeguy

      Fanboy much? For a 3mx3m play space, Oculus’s sensors in a 3x set up work literally jsut as well as Lighthouse sensors. Lighthouse excells at larger play spaces.

  • > exactly how the Oculus positional tracking system functions.
    that’s not exactly true. Most probably, this glove as conceptualized would be usable for mobile VR applications, giving precise hand gesture and rough hand position independent of constellation tracking. The system as proposed has the imaging sensors *integrated into the fabric* of the glove, importantly on the *interior* as shown in the illustration. This will allow oculus to determine positional shift of the fingers *within* the glove itself. Perhaps the stretch and wrinkling of skin is a good indicator of joint position. The diagram also mentions IMUs, which would help position the hands in 3space. Combined, this would alleviate the need for external cameras to get a decent representation of hands in VR.

  • cactus

    it seems just to me or basically uses the same principle of how an optical mouse works?