updated 08:18 pm EDT, Thu July 17, 2014
Controllers track hand and body movements, could upset other device developers
Oculus VR, the company behind the Oculus Rift headset, is reportedly developing its own motion controllers to accompany the virtual reality (VR) headset. CNet reports that people familiar with situation indicate Oculus is creating a controller in-house that would track hand and body movements for a more immersive VR experience.
Not much information is given on the specifications of the controllers under development, but those with knowledge of the project indicate that several methods have been approached. So far, Oculus has looked into using infrared lights, magnetic fields and an assortment of cameras to determine the placement of the person and the movement of their hands. The goal is to allow players to manipulate the items in the virtual world, as well as grant better sensory control than a gaming controller would.
Motion controllers have existed in the gaming landscape for some time, but rose to mainstream popularity with the Nintendo Wii. Using a series of sensors to track numerous data points relating to movement and positioning, motion controls could be used to simulate the swinging of a golf club or mimic a firearm in a game. After the success of the Wii, other companies waded into the motion-sensing controller pool, including Sony with the PlayStation Move.
Oculus's approach with a motion controller may not be far off from the control scheme that Sony is using with Project Morpheus. Like the Oculus Rift, Morpheus uses a camera to track movements. However, the console manufacturer's VR device utilizes the PlayStation Move controls to give players greater control and fewer restrictions. As the device is currently used, it requires a controller or PC-related input methods to control the in-game experience.
By developing their own controller, Oculus may end up hurting the business surrounding VR technology. Several companies have sprung up with their own controllers, and other peripherals like gloves and treadmills to support the emerging VR scene. A few of these developers have taken to outside funding channels, such as Kickstarter, to launch devices specifically for the Rift. Am Oculus controller could keep consumers away from outside products and fragment the market.
It could also grant greater options to the company. It's possible that by creating a controller to go along with the Rift, Oculus could be looking at a standalone product that doesn't need a PC or game console to drive it. While a controller may be part of the evolution of the headset, for now the company is looking to launch the headset for existing gaming hardware. Oculus hasn't issued a date for the official release of the Rift, but the second developer kit is scheduled to ship this month.