Just before the annual VR/AR conference Oculus Connect 6, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg released a teaser video hinting at a software-based hand and finger recognition system. Today, the company revealed that the feature will indeed come to Oculus Quest in a software update next year, following another major development: Oculus Link, a hardware/software solution that will enable the Quest to display Rift games from a PC.
Hand-tracking uses sophisticated AI to help a computer (such as a VR or AR system) recognize the shapes of hands and individual fingers, interpreting gestures as input commands. A wave of the hand left or right may switch pages; pointing at an object might select it; grasping the object could allow you to manipulate it in 3D space. Microsoft’s HoloLens has used a similar system for input since its release, rather than requiring hand-held controllers.
The ability of a computer to recognize hands and individual fingers without hand-held controllers isn’t new, but achieving the same functionality in software could be a big deal for Oculus. Leap Motion was an early promoter of the idea and sold $80 tracking accessories for the purpose, before its acquisition by UltraHaptics (and collective rebranding as UltraLeap) earlier this year.
Facebook says that no additional hardware will be required for Quest: the feature it will run directly from the headset, with “no active depth-sensing cameras, additional sensors, or extra processors required.” It will launch as an experimental feature for consumers and an SDK for developers in early 2020.
By comparison, Oculus Link will use a USB-C connection to cleanly display Rift content generated by a VR-capable PC. As Quest comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable, that may be all that’s needed for some PCs; another cable may be needed for other machines. Scheduled to be released in November, it expands the library of content that can be enjoyed on a Quest beyond the games and apps that run natively on the device.