Here Are The Top 21 Controllers in VR/AR

Yay, new interaction options for VR are coming soon from Valve!

I’m actually not being sarcastic: this is very cool. The rapid pace of modern innovation is fantastic and allows the tech industry to come up with new and better technology very quickly. This is obviously important, as we perfect the way we interface with digital realities in the XR world (XR representing a catch-all for VR/AR/MR, or Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and any new ones), and there is much room for improvement… but what does this do for the XR landscape?

Through a VC Lens

I spent 3+ years as a Virtual Reality-focused Venture Capitalist. My job was to determine which companies were solving or addressing the most relevant pain points in the VR / AR industry, and in my opinion the biggest factor limiting hockey stick growth in this sector wasn’t headset cost or education: it was content availability. To address the largest TAM (total addressable market), a content product must obviously be compatible with as many platforms as possible for the widest reach.

Historical Fragmentation

Previously, developing content across interactive platforms was a simpler time. With PlayStation vs XBox, developers would simply remap button controls to different gamepads. For iPhone and Android, developers targeted a multitouch display interface and mainly had to deal with various screen ratios & resolutions.

The developing world of XR

Cross-platform reach requires compatibility, and this poses an issue where VR / AR’s perfect controller has not yet been solved. Instead of staying in the lab for years until fully refined, we’re seeing first-party companies releasing their intermediary solutions and replacing them anywhere from 6 months to under 2 years after their release:

And yet, every outdated product must still retain some support in order to sustain each consumer’s VR investment lest they be turned off from the emerging industry and slow it down even further. Since we cannot guarantee that each consumer purchases the “upgrades” (new controllers that aren’t automatically included with the core system), this adds friction for developers struggling to maintain pace in supporting all users, as they must support each system’s old and new controller sets.

The high cost of researching VR / AR interactions for Across Realities

Celebrating the recent announcement of the Valve Knuckles VR controllers, I present here the Top 21 first-party solutions for VR / AR controllers sorted by release year.

I have a lot more to say about this, but for now I’m just going to leave this list here as a discussion point.

In my next post I’ll explain what this all means for the future of XR and its coming entrance into the trough of disillusionment.
Yes I said entrance, not exit.

Feel free to message me on LinkedIn or have a discussion in the comments.

2017 Releases & Announcements (1st half of 2017)

1. Samsung GearVR + 3DOF Controller add-on
2. PlayStationVR + Aim Controller
3. Microsoft Mixed Reality Headset + hands (Dev Edition)
4. Microsoft Mixed Reality Headset + MR Controllers (Dev Edition)
5. Google Daydream View 6DOF head + 3DOF controller
6. Intel Project Alloy headset + hands
7. Meta 2 AR headset + hands (Dev Kit)
8. Qualcomm-based VR headsets + Leap Motion hands (Dev Kit)
9. Vive + Knuckles VR

2016 Releases

1. Oculus + XBox One Gamepad
2. Oculus + Oculus Remote
3. Oculus + Oculus Touch
4. Vive + original 6DOF controllers
5. Samsung GearVR + Touchpad
6. Samsung GearVR + Gamepad
7. Hololens + hands (Dev Edition)
8. PlayStation VR + 6DOF DualShock 4 Gamepad
9. PlayStation VR + Move Controllers
10. Google Daydream 3DOF head + 3DOF Controller

2014/2015 Releases

1. Google Cardboard Gaze & Stare (No Button)
2. Google Cardboard Gaze & Tap (With Button)

*Dates above are approximate
**List above does not include third-party controls such as Sixense STEM, Noitom, ManusVR, XImmerse, or USens 26DOF trackers
***List above does not include enhanced peripherals such as HTC’s Vive Trackers
****List above does not include partially known systems such as Magic Leap or Avegant Lightfield
*****List above does not include locomotion peripherals such as Virtuix Omni and VirZoom
******List above does not include motion tracking suits such as Perception Neuron and PrioVR