Input is one of the most crucial pieces of the VR puzzle. Looking at my personal experiences and those of the many others who have tried VR with excellent hand tracked controllers like the Vive controllers or the Oculus Touch, it adds a whole additional layer of immersiveness to the experience.
Right now mobile VR exists in a state that, while immersive, can’t reach the same levels as its desktop or console counterparts. Some of this is due to the lack of positional tracking on the devices, something that was a hot topic at Oculus Connect, but it can also be attributed to the lack of available hand tracked input.
Right now games and experiences on the Gear VR either utilize a Bluetooth enabled gamepad or the touch pad on the side of the headset (along with a variety of different gaze based inputs). But in the future, mobile VR will likely have some form of motion-tracked input as well.
“I can’t talk about any specific plans,” Palmer Luckey told UploadVR in a recent interview, “but obviously [mobile motion tracked input] is a goal.” The gamepad is not “the end all be all of virtual reality interaction,” he continued.
Luckey has been known for making input his “pet project” at Oculus in the last year, helping bring the Touch controllers to life but it doesn’t look like they will be made compatible with the Gear VR any time soon.
“The Touch that you’re using today is probably never going to work with the Gear,” says Luckey. Instead we will likely see a solution using one of the “different sets of technologies that would enable six degree freedom motion tracking with mobile virtual reality devices, and they are going to work in different ways.”
In terms of what those other solutions may be, time will tell. Sixense has been demoing its STEM system on the Gear VR for some time now, for example. The system uses an electromagtentic tracking system that tracks motion with 7.5ms of latency on the Gear VR via bluetooth, but it is not quite yet ready for primetime.
The Touch may never work with the Gear VR (at least not officially) but it probably isn’t due to a technical issue, rather it is likely one of philosophy.
“If it were a technical problem,” to pair Touch to a phone, “it would not be hard to solve. It’s definitely not what’s holding it back.” Rather, perhaps, it is the fact that Touch would still require a stationary camera attached to a computer of some sort something that really takes it out of the bubble of convenience for the everyday consumer, especially for a device which is aiming to be mobile.
The fact that the lack of out of the box pairing is not a technical issue opens the door for some intrepid maker to figure out a way to hack together the devices, and given the experimental nature of the VR community my guess is that someone will.
The first consumer edition of the Gear VR will begin shipping in November, in time for the Holiday season. The device, which will be compatible with the full line of new phones (Note 5, S6, S6 Plus, and S6 Edge) and will cost $99.