Hands on with the Oculus Touch.
Oculus’ Touch controllers are hands down the most comfortable, intuitive, and organic feeling motion controllers I have ever used. I’ve only had the opportunity to use them one time, while demoing EPIC’s Bullet Train demo, but after that experience, I cannot wait to get my hands on them again.
The controllers were incredibly light and felt like a natural extension of my arm. Lifting my hands up to fire a weapon immediately reminded me of being a kid and arranging my fingers into a gun shape to take down the bad guys. In fact, if you were to hold out your own hands like pistols right now, you’d be holding your hands in almost the exact same manner in which you hold these controllers. By coupling a natural hand posture with the very light weight of the hardware, Oculus has created a motion controller that feels more organic than anything you’ve tried up to this point, and because of that these controllers are intoxicatingly fun to use. To put it simply, they’re absolutely awesome.
The Touch controllers were made to be as minimally obtrusive as possible. When you hold them, there is an outer ring that extends out maybe an inch and a half past your own fist, but besides that ring, everything else is contained within your palms, creating a controller that is both lighter and far less prone to accidental collisions than something like the HTC-Vive’s “wands” which are much longer and have more room to catch on real-world objects (like smashing your controllers into each other while trying to reload a weapon or whacking the controller on your headset when you reach up too quickly to adjust your vision).
The Oculus Touch controllers are shaped to be incredibly intuitive and complement the natural curvature of your own hands, something that I could actually feel in the gameplay of Bullet Train. Grabbing the grip on a virtual shotgun felt similar to grabbing something in the real-world thanks to the controller’s shape, which guides your hands into making the same soft fist that you would use to grab any real-world object. The Touch doesn’t force your hands to do anything so much as it guides them into assuming the most natural hand posture for VR.
This ergonomic marvel isn’t an accident. In an interview with Road to VR, Oculus cofounder Nate Mitchel stated that the number of prototypes for Oculus VR is “probably more than 300”. It’s clear that Oculus put a lot of time into these controllers and their attention to detail and willingness to iterate until it felt just right is readily apparent in the (near) final product.
However, while I loved the general design and found the tracking itself to at least be on par with the HTC-Vive (an opinion that many would argue, it seems), there are still some unanswered questions regarding the Oculus Touch. For one, from what we’ve seen so far it appears that the Oculus Touch is recommended only as a 180° experience rather than a full 360° experience like the HTC-Vive. If this is true, that lack of full room scale tracking may be a significantly limiting factor in overall immersion compared to the HTC-vive.
Also, I still haven’t seen any first person games that utilize the controllers analog sticks and I am incredibly curious how these analog sticks may be used in the future. The Bullet Train demo I experienced still relied on the standard teleportation model for traversal in VR, and while it is understood that teleportation is currently the best method the industry has for getting from point A to point B, it is also a method I hope will one day be replaced with new design techniques that can allow for smooth movement through an environment without inducing nausea and without needing to utilize contrivances like teleportation. By including the analog sticks right off the bat, the Oculus Touch is encouraging more creative design experimentation that hopefully will lead to more realistic and rewarding movement in VR somewhere down the line.
All in all, my limited time with the Oculus Touch left me incredibly impressed and looking forward to seeing what more can be done with the technology. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that, eventually, the Rift will actually be able to support full 360° movement instead of just the 180° that I experienced, but while we wait to see whether or not that will happen, I can rest easy in the fact that the Oculus Touch undoubtedly offered me the most natural, intuitive, and just downright fun motion control that I’ve ever experienced.
**Written by Nathan Hoffmeier