Valve is developing a pair of more immersive hand controllers currently called “Knuckles” that promise to offer more precise finger tracking and grasping sensations in VR. Though the controllers are still in a prototype phase and likely to change, Valve released early versions to developers over the last few months and interest is high to see how they can be used to make virtual worlds more immersive.
Last month Denny Unger from Cloudhead, the studio behind The Gallery, shared some thoughts based on his hands-on experience with the controllers and over the last several weeks Climbey developer Brian Lindenhof has been testing the controllers in a variety of virtual worlds from both the Oculus store and Steam. I asked Lindenhof over direct message whether, even in this prototype state, he prefers Knuckles to the Oculus Touch or the Vive wands.
“Definitely the Knuckles,” he wrote.
The controllers fit around the palm of your hand and strap in snugly behind your knuckles. You pull a short cord to tighten the fit. Initially, Lindenhof noted the controllers could get slightly uncomfortable after a few hours and pinch his hand just a bit. Now he says he’s “grown more used to them” and doesn’t feel the pinching anymore.
“[I] regularly play with them until they drop dead now,” Lindenhof wrote. “Which is 3-4 hours currently.”
That is just one developer’s opinion at this point but that sort of rigorous use and preference for the hardware even in a prototype state bodes very well for Valve’s efforts to push immersion further than Facebook’s Oculus Touch controllers. It sounds like the current controllers are great for simulating the feeling of grasping and releasing objects with handles requiring several fingers, but pinching an object between just your index finger and thumb might not be ideal yet. In other words, it may be perfect for grasping a bow or a cup’s handle but picking up a spoon from a drawer with just two fingers may not feel exactly like the real world.
The developer behind the Revive hack which lets people access Oculus store games with an HTC Vive headset reportedly also received the controllers, and Lindenhof has been using the hack in both Lone Echo and Echo Arena, two Oculus exclusive titles. He’s been recording his experience and thoughts at length on his YouTube channel and shared a few of the videos with us.
Check them out: