Oculus Pushes Out Hand Tracking Feature Way Ahead of Schedule

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Oculus may have just made the next big leap in VR, way ahead of schedule. The company has enabled hand tracking on the Oculus Quest and will make the feature available for developers next week.

Oculus announced today that it was rolling out an update to bring hand tracking to its Quest headset on Dec. 9, with the SDK that will let developers add hand tracking to their own games coming Dec. 16.

Hand tracking was initially planned as a feature to come in early 2020, meaning that it’s launching at least a few weeks early. According to Oculus, the company found a way to use deep learning to use the Quest’s current cameras to track users’ hands without the need for additional sensors.

There’s no telling how long after that it will take for the first hand tracking features to be added to games on the Quest, but for now, native functions like menus can be controlled in a whole new way.

To take advantage of the new feature, users first have to install the v12 update, out today, then enable hand tracking in the Experimental Features menu. Once the option is enabled, users can control the Quest interface with nothing but their own hands. Oculus says certain first-party apps, such as Oculus Browser and Oculus TV, will support hand tracking in its experimental phase. A video posted by Oculus shows a player scrolling text, scrubbing through a video and launching an app with the new feature. The company says it plans to add new features to hand tracking in 2020.

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While it remains to be seen how accurate Quest’s hand tracking technology is, it at least presents the possibility of fine-tuned VR control without the need for any extra equipment. Currently, the Valve Index controller is far behind the capabilities of any other widely available VR controller when it comes to tracking hand and finger movements, but its high price point also puts it out of reach for most players without a lot of money to burn. The recent trailer for Half-Life: Alyx shows off a lot of precise hand movements for actions like searching through shelves for ammunition, which might work better with a high fidelity hand tracking controller. If the comparatively affordable Oculus Quest can offer similar levels of control, it could make it look even more attractive to potential players in the future.