Second camera needed for Oculus Touch, Unreal improves controller support

by Ian Hamilton • August 31st, 2015

New documentation from Oculus suggests a second camera with another wire running to your PC will be needed to bring your hands into VR with Oculus Touch controllers.

All three announced consumer VR platforms — Oculus, SteamVR and Sony — have plans for bringing your hands into VR and a new 4.9 update to the Unreal experience engine this week is designed to standardize motion controllers through a common interface so it is easier for developers to support the input solutions. While it is getting easier for developers to bring hands into VR across multiple systems, the documentation from Oculus suggests that adding hands to an Oculus system might be a little more difficult for consumers than with SteamVR or Sony.

From the Oculus documentation:

The constellation tracker used to track the head position of the Oculus Rift also tracks the hand poses of the Oculus Touch controllers.

For installations that have the Oculus Rift and Oculus Touch controllers, there will be at least two constellation trackers to improve tracking accuracy and help with occlusion issues.

Valve’s SteamVR controllers communicate with a pair of lasers that are typically placed high at opposite ends of the room to solve the same problem. Occluding (blocking) the sensors on either SteamVR or Oculus might mismatch what you feel in reality with what you see in VR, leading to a bad experience. Back in June, Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey said “you could use the Touch controllers and one camera”. That said, adding more cameras to the mix should help expand the area a person can roam in VR while making sure there’s no loss of tracking.

The SteamVR lasers, however, only require power and aren’t wired directly to a PC. The “constellation” optical trackers from Oculus are likely to need to be wired to your PC. This difference in design means that if you decide you’d like to upgrade your Rift when the Oculus Touch controllers launch there may be an added layer of logistical complexity compared to SteamVR. While you just need to provide power to the SteamVR lasers, likely positioning them next to a power outlet, with Oculus you’ll likely have to figure out how to hide another cord running to your PC that could potentially have to run around the perimeter of the room like a speaker cord.

To the most enthusiastic VR adopters the difference might not matter much but with general-interest consumers every bit of added complexity with either software or hardware will make it harder for the technology to see widespread adoption.

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