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Why Oculus' radical, fantastic Touch VR controller should ship with the Rift

Hayden Dingman | July 20, 2015
Oculus Touch should not be an optional add-on. That's really the moral of this whole article. Ever since I went hands-on with Oculus's motion-tracked controllers, I've been preoccupied by the fear that nobody will ever buy them or use them.

Oculus Rift - Touch

Oculus Touch should not be an optional add-on. That's really the moral of this whole article. Ever since I went hands-on with Oculus's motion-tracked controllers, I've been preoccupied by the fear that nobody will ever buy them or use them.

I understand the issue here: Bundling a headset and two controllers is (obviously) more expensive than selling them separately. Virtual reality's already a risky venture, and raising the price makes it even riskier. And so Oculus has unbundled the two. You can buy the headset, link the included Xbox One controller to your PC, and "experience virtual reality."

Yes, "experience" in quotes. Virtual reality with a gamepad is a gimped experience at best, and I've come to believe shipping a VR headset and a standard Xbox One controller is a mistake.

How did we get here?

To be fair: I didn't always feel this way. The need for a better VR-oriented control scheme has been apparent for a while now, but anyone lucky enough to own a DK1 or DK2 has likely used an Xbox controller as an easily-accessible stand-in. And it's been okay.

Then I went to GDC and used the HTC Vive, otherwise known as "Valve's attempt at VR." The Vive demo used two wands, tracked by a pair of stationary sensors dubbed Lighthouse. The result: Hands. My hands. In virtual reality.

Sure, they weren't really my hands. In reality I was stuck holding two rods, so my fingers "opened and closed" by pressing a button. But they were my hands.

It's intuitive--even for those who don't normally play games. It's comfortable. It's one step closer to the "presence" VR enthusiasts are always chasing.

That last bit is important. I often hear people describe virtual reality as "strapping a screen to your face." And put that way, the whole endeavor does seem pretty damn goofy. We reached new levels of absurdity when Microsoft came onstage at Oculus's press conference last month to announce you could play Xbox One games in virtual reality...on a virtual TV. Sitting in a virtual living room. That's not an experience that interests me a hell of a lot. Sure, I might use it--but it's nothing new. It's translating our current gaming experiences into virtual reality.

The best virtual reality demos are those built for the platform from the ground up. And for that to come to full fruition, you need to give developers hardware built for virtual reality.

All hands on deck

Enter Oculus Touch.

Like the Vive's wands, Touch allows you to use your hands in virtual reality--but Touch is a bit more sophisticated. Each controller has an analog stick, two of the four standard Xbox buttons (A and B on one hand, X and Y on the other), and then two triggers per hand.

 

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