The leaders in PC VR, Valve/HTC and Oculus, have been working hard to improve their current virtual reality setups, the Vive and Rift. Valve have created prototype smaller clip-on hand controllers and TPCAST have released a wireless Vive upgrade kit. Oculus have also been busy, announcing they will support 360 degree and room-scale tracking, and they are considering VR website content and streaming services for the Rift.
The current Vive controllers are bigger and bulkier than the new prototypes, and the main complaint from current users is the size. While functional, they are slightly awkward to hold and buttons often feel in the wrong place. The newly released Oculus Touch controllers are smaller and ergonomically designed, and it seems Valve are heading in a similar direction. Valve’s smaller prototype hand controllers let you open and close your hands as you grasp and let go of virtual objects. This allows for a more natural reaction to handling and interacting with objects. They clip onto your hands, and have safety wrist straps to keep them in place, stopping you from accidentally throwing them across the room. Having your fingers free also gives you the ability to adjust your headset or type on your keyboard without putting the controllers down, helpful for developers and enthusiasts alike.
Above: Developer Denny Unger using the prototype hand controllers.
HTC have also revealed they are offering Chinese customers a wireless upgrade for the Vive. TPCAST have manufactured a transmitter/receiver set, that allows the user to be untethered to their computer. The transmitter clips on top of the user’s head, and is connected to a battery pack that rests in a pouch on the back of the HMD. It is unknown whether latency or tracking will be an issue with this new setup. The product will be shipped during Q1 2017, and more details about the product will be made available then.
Above: The TPCAST wireless transmitter attaches to the top of the users’ head.
While Valve and HTC have been upgrading their tech, Oculus have been focusing on their services. They have recognized the demand for real movement when using the Rift and Touch, and have announced support for up to three cameras. This means users can now access 360-degree motion and room-scale tracking, allowing you to turn around completely and walk in a 5×5 feet space. The space is physically marked out using the Touch controllers upon start up, in the same method as the Vive. Oculus Home and SteamVR now both support up to four Oculus sensors, meaning customers can start using these options when the Touch and extra sensors are released in December. It also leaves an option to plug in a fourth sensor for better tracking, although this option is not necessary.
Above: Explaining ReactVR at OC3 2016.
Header Image: The announcement of ‘Carmel’ at OC3 2016.