Logitech is working with developers on a solution that brings keyboards into VR using HTC’s Vive Tracker.
The VR keyboard developer’s kit is being distributed to a small set of creators to make software and apps that use the capability. This BRIDGE kit, as it is called, could be a boon to apps like VR Desktop and Bigscreen, each of which already appear to be working with the system. Those VR apps are an obvious fit for the solution because they offer ways to interact with all the traditional apps on your computer while wearing a PC-powered headset, but the keyboard could also lead to the creation of new VR apps that incorporate traditional keyboard input while also extending the amount of time people spend in VR overall. Needing to access your keyboard while inside VR is such a hurdle that some manufacturers are designing VR headsets with flip-up displays that make it easier to pop out for a minute to type something.
The BRIDGE developers kit works by attaching a Vive Tracker to a specific spot on the Logitech G gaming keyboard. Logitech will be “seeding 50 of these kits to select developers with the goal of partnering to create compelling new experiences centered around a VR keyboard.” Applications to get one of the kits will be accepted through Nov. 16, and if interest is great enough they may build additional units later.
According to a blog post by Logitech’s Vincent Tucker:
We’ve created a way for the HTC Vive Tracker to represent a keyboard across the Steam VR system. It is this software piece that presents the user with an overlaid virtual representation of their keyboard in any VR application, complete with animations when keys are pressed. It’s compatible with all apps that are developed based on SteamVR. The developer’s application does not need to manage anything, the overlay appears automatically as soon as the associated Vive Tracker is turned on. It also affords the opportunity to skin the keyboard in a variety of ways, as mentioned above, allowing developers to create unique experiences for their communities.
Our work didn’t stop there, we know that for a true typing experience you need to see your hands, and we’ve created a way to use the Vive’s existing tracking to do that. We’ve put in a lot of hard work to develop this experience so far and we know it can go much further with the creativity of the developer community.
I’m very curious to hear more details about that latter feature. The Vive headset features an outward-facing camera that hasn’t been used for much since the hardware’s debut and tracking finger movements would certainly be a big use. We’ll follow up as we learn more about this solution.