Control VR: bring your hands with you
This ties in beautifully with our earlier piece on virtual reality desktop environments.. I mean, who wouldn’t want a quiet office on mars, with the Iron Throne as your seat of power? Control VR has developed a pair of gloves that lets you bring your hands, fingers and, well, the rest of your upper-body into the virtual world with you. No more questions about missing limbs or confusion over lack of synchronisation. Control VR have clearly delivered one of the most important PEAs yet: high-sensitivity, real time hand-movement tracking.
As you can see in the above video, the Control VR system has almost imperceptible latency (~54ms). That’s almost fast enough for Tron-Frisbee, but it would be interesting to see if someone can juggle wearing one (either by mo-capping the balls or synching the actions with keyframes). There’s just so much that is possible with this setup.
They’ve got beer-pong, typing, shooting and insults covered already and the open-source release of their development kit means things should really take off as things build up to launch.
You can help their cause by backing them on Kickstarter. Control VR have already acheived over half of their goal funding in just over 2 days. It’s clear they are very likely to make well above their requirements and I’m really looking forward to seeing any stretch goals. One of their tech demos shows an Iron Man game where flying and shooting are all controlled from the gloves, just like the real Tony Stark! That example alone would justify its asking price and even VR industrialisation in general, but the applications go way beyond even the broad scope already hinted at in their promo.
My hands! My beautiful hands!
Shooting, moving, manipulating, typing, playing, throwing, catching [Ed: we get the idea] it’s all possible with enough accuracy and VR gaming now has the most powerful of control methods that no other system has: your own hands. Almost everyone when first introduced to VR looks to see how their hands look in the game. Not seeing them is a disconcerting feeling that only amputees have really experienced before. Luckily, if things progress and costs are lowered, this is not an experience that you’ll have to have yourself. Even the best of current motion tracking controllers have little or no concept of individual fingers, so quite how important this improvement is cannot be understated.
There is an initial calibration process, which can take one of two routes: follow-my-lead or camera tracking. The results are impressive, to say the least, and while there is still room for improvement, it’s hard to see how we could fully replicate the intricacies of the human hand’s control just yet. Tying your virtual shoelaces? That’s going to be a while.. sorry. But making quiet hand-signals to your team mates, like “hold!”, “cover me!” and “up yours, sucka!” are all now very much possible. Judging by the beer-pong efforts, I’d guess we’re probably going to have to wait until the 2nd generation before we play a truly competitive version of Tron’s light-frisbee game, but this will do for now.
I can see archery, spell-casting and sword-play being hugely appealing on this platform. And the thought of creating my own gestures to summon fireballs or healing auras is very enticing indeed. Imagine casting ‘Bound Bow’ just by drawing an arrow back, or creating fireballs by doing the wizardy-zap thingummy.. [Ed: Really?] Looking though catalogues of icons is just a drag when you’re exploring Skyrim and want to set that wood sprite’s face on fire in a flash. Even the navigational elements can all be greatly improved by flicking and selecting pages and items like Tom Cruise in Minority Report.
Presenting the finger
What is probably the single most appealing feature about Control VR’s product is not the multitude of applications, but the fact that having your hands in your VR environment with you is an incredibly powerful and immersive feature, fostering a sense of presence more so than any other (apart from the VR headset itself). Looking around and not seeing limbs you know are there is a really massive clue to your brain that you’re not seeing the world that it is aware of. Yanking you unceremoniously back into the real world where you are sitting there with some plastic strapped to your face. We’ve talked a lot about presence-enhancing accessories and are very happy to see that one of the most important ones is due for delivery this Christmas. I am going to be very, very good until then.
Check out just how much fun they’re having in Control VR’s video: