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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.

Above: Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg talks about Oculus Link.

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.

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