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.

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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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