The Oculus Touch Experience
Many people recently stood in line at Facebook’s F8 conference in San Francisco to try out the new Oculus Touch headset. Yaser Sheikh Carnegie Mellon, Assistant Professor and Oculus Rift researcher and Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer would discuss how making virtual reality feels real.
There were three lines; one of Oculus Rifts with an Oculus Touch pair of controllers, one for Gear VR and one for Oculus Rift with a regular gaming handset. The longest line was for Oculus Touch. It took people from 30 minutes to almost 2 hours to get through the line. The handset was surprisingly easy to use, but it’s hard to say the degree of touch in its current form in enhancing the VR experience.
A football match and a basketball shooting drill were the two games offered by Facebook. Basketball is less violent than the football option.
Basketball had a straight forward demo. Instructions were to ensure that the white laser dot at the center of your vision falls on the ball when you look at whatever ball you wish to select. To grab, pull the trigger of the handset and hover your virtual hand over it. The ball will immediately fall to the ground and bounce off in oblivion.
The movements of the user’s fingers make the touch sufficiently sensitive. The thumb of your large-handed avatar moves as well when you stretch your arms in front of you and when you move your own thumb. That was the most impressive singular part of the whole Touch demo.
The touch itself isn’t particularly interesting if you’ve worn a VR headset before. The simplest existing three- dimensional virtual reality environment was the main area of interest.
A set of identical avatars stomped, cheered and danced with staggering coordination in the stand. The referee in a pin-striped polo-clad scowled.
The game was made easier to navigate by the Touch controllers than a regular controller could have. My movement was matched consistently by Touch and was quite sensitive not to jolt an object or alter the environment by being sensitive to follow my intentions. Some people thought that it felt a little counter-intuitive when pulling a trigger and to grab items and it felt natural when using the controllers.
Some people said the Touch controllers were easy to use as game controllers, but they didn’t like how they weren’t able to explore widely or alter the environment or in their own terms, interact with another avatar. Users interact with other people once they are plugged in or with avatars which are artificially intelligent.
The Touch doesn’t make you feel like you’re completely in the virtual reality environment, though it’s a step in that direction.