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article imageOculus Touch brings hand tracking and gestures to virtual reality

By James Walker     Dec 6, 2016 in Technology
Oculus has launched its VR Touch controllers, bringing motion tracking and gesture detection to its Rift headset. The uniquely shared gamepads feature analogue sticks, buttons and triggers for gaming, as well as support for standing experiences.
Touch was unveiled shortly after the Rift launched. Nine months later, the controllers are finally available, offering customers a more immersive way to experience VR games. The Rift ships with one of Microsoft's Xbox One controllers in the box whereas the HTC Vive, its main rival, already supports motion tracking. With the Touch, Oculus is catching up with HTC by providing a way to intuitively interact with VR worlds.
The Touch controllers are individual handheld gamepads for your left and right hands. A contoured, rounded handle helps you get comfortable in VR and makes the Touch feel like a regular gamepad. While it may look a little strange, early reviews have suggested they're surprisingly easy to use.
On the face of the controllers, an analogue stick, two face buttons and two grip buttons are used to interact with the content on the screen. It's designed so your index finger naturally rests on the buttons with your middle fingers on the grip controls. There's also an Oculus home button on the right controller that takes you back to the interface's main menu.
The Touch comes with a second Rift sensor that lets the headset work out where you are in your room. This enables the Rift to power experiences in which you stand up and walk around, previously another feature exclusive to the Vive. The second sensor extends the play area considerably but still doesn't quite match that of the Vive. Additional sensors can be bought for $79 each though, allowing you to create a progressively larger space.
The controllers have been received well by reviewers. They're more intuitive to use in VR than a standard Xbox One controller and allow the Rift to finally catch up with the Vive. With proper hand tracking and gesture detecting now available to Rift gamers, there's more competition in the VR space. The controllers use a unique set of capacitive sensors to work out where your fingers are and project them into the headset's display.
Touch is launching with a set of 54 games and experiences that are designed to make VR immersion "more authentic." Oculus highlighted a few new titles including Wild West target practice game Dead and Buried, 3D sculpting utility Medium and infinite painting app Quill.
"Hand presence opens up new opportunities to interact with others while experiencing VR—and this is just the first step," said Oculus. "We can’t wait to see the next wave of immersive content made possible with Touch."
Oculus Touch is available from today online and in stores. Over 500 retailers in the U.S., U.K., Canada, France and Germany are currently offering demos of the new controllers, letting you get a feel for the motion tracking capabilities before you buy. The controllers retail for $199. Including a $599 Rift headset, you'll now need $800 available to get the full Oculus experience, assuming you already have a sufficiently powerful computer.
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