‘Step Into Rift’ had been Oculus’ mantra since the launch of the headset back at the end of March, but with the launch of Oculus’ dedicated motion controllers, Touch, players can finally ‘Reach Into Rift’ too.

Touch has been a long time coming. Oculus has been criticized for launching Rift with a packed in Xbox One controller back in March, while competitor HTC Vive launched just a few days after with a pair of motion tracked controllers in every box. There’s no doubt about it, having your hands tracked in VR is not just a more natural way to interact in VR, it’s more immersive too. Vive users have known this from the beginning, and now, 8 months later, Rift users will too.

SEE ALSO
Oculus Rift Review: Prologue to a New Reality

As usual, we’ve got the summary up front with an extensive breakdown following for those who want to dig in.

Summary

oculus-touch-review-13Oculus Touch is (finally) here. There’s no denying the controller’s beautiful design which also has several smart touches—like a hidden magnet-latching battery cover and easy lanyard removal. The ergonomics are a major step forward, thanks largely to a center of gravity which is much closer to the center of your hand than the Vive controllers.

Setup is simple and polished, and with two cameras you can achieve the same ‘roomscale’ sized playspace that Oculus recommends for a 3-camera setup (though it will be for front-facing experiences only). Additional “experimental” camera configurations allow for a roomscale space that’s also 360, or a standing-only 360 experience which feels rather limiting.

Tracking performance within the recommended tracking space is extremely good, and we couldn’t break tracking no matter how fast we shook the controller. Venturing outside of the recommended playspace leads to quick dropoffs in tracking quality. More than two cameras can be used, but in our experience the extra cameras added occlusion redundancy more so than they managed to increase the size of the recommended ‘roomscale’ playspace, which is a good deal smaller than that of the Vive. We’re also not sure how many developers will opt to target the full roomscale recommended space when they can instead guarantee that all Touch users at least have two cameras for the front-facing setup.

‘Hand Presence’, which Oculus had drummed up as a sort of differentiator against the Vive controllers, doesn’t seem to be a clear cut advantage for Touch. Sure, the controller’s ergonomics are great, and much preferred over the Vive’s wand design, but both controllers feel equally capable of making you feel like you’re using your hands in VR.

Adding Touch (and the extra tracking space) to Rift makes VR more natural and immersive. You’ll feel like you’re reaching into and interacting with of virtual world instead of just looking, as you might have before with just a Rift and a gamepad.

With 53 launch titles there’s plenty to choose from and while we haven’t been able to play through the whole library, there’s already a number of early standouts with several exciting titles on the way in 2017.

Hardware

oculus-touch-review-12We used the word “elegant” to describe touch back when we first saw it more than a year and a half ago, and while the controller has changed somewhat, its elegance has remained. Touch is a impressively designed piece of hardware that feels great to hold.

Unboxing

Inside of every Oculus Touch box you’ll find a left and right controller and an additional Oculus Sensor to compliment the one that came with your Rift headset (it should be noted that this Sensor has the same 2.5m cable as the one that comes with the Rift, while the standalone $79 Sensor comes with a 5m extension cable).

The box has a white sleeve on it, much like the one that shrouded the Rift’s velvety black case. While the Rift case was crazy-nice, you’ll find the well constructed cardboard Touch box to be more standard fare. It’s nice enough to store and show off your controllers when they aren’t in use, and thought it doesn’t have a handle, it’ll work fine as a carrying case to get the kit to and fro.

A tiny box attached to the top of the Touch box’s lid houses a mini documentation booklet, AA batteries, and a Rockband VR adapter which can holster Touch to a Rockband guitar; a weird thing to come with every box, especially given that Rockband VR isn’t a Touch launch title, but at least you’ll have it if you need it.

Design & Ergonomics

oculus-touch-review-10Oculus Touch is a beautiful and—as we’ll say again—elegant device. Your hands will feel right at home the moment you grip them.

Compared to the Vive controllers, Touch isn’t just smaller, it crucially keeps the controller’s center of gravity very close to the natural center of gravity of your hands. The result feels much more natural when moving and manipulating the controllers than the wand- or tool-like feel of the Vive controllers.

The more compact design also means you can get your virtual hands closer together, which makes them quite a bit less likely to collide with your headset as you swing your arms past; something which can happen often with the Vive when the in-game hand model isn’t rendered, with the extra ‘tracking donut’ extending some way beyond your physical hand location.

touch-button-layoutEach controller feels like a solid, integrated unit, and this carries through to the buttons, sticks, and triggers. The face buttons have good travel and seem to have just a hair more resistance than what you might find with an Xbox or PS4 controller, though button presses feel good nonetheless. The menu buttons are much shorter, and almost flush with the face of the controller, making them easy to differentiate from the other buttons even when you can’t see the controller. The controller’s joysticks feel top notch as well and are surrounded in a rubberized pattern for grip, similar to that of the Xbox One controller.

oculus-touch-review-14The trigger has an interesting indent that comfortably fits the joint of the last two segments of your index finger. With your thumb up top and index finger on the trigger, your remaining four fingers will find their way around the body of the controller, with your middle finger resting lightly against the ‘hand trigger’, which is frequently used for grabbing objects (while the index finger trigger tends to be used to activate them). The hand trigger has a very light touch and a good bit of travel, making it easy to press and hold for extended periods.

Each Touch controller is powered by a single AA battery, which Oculus says can last for up to 30 hours of gameplay. The battery compartment is smartly hidden as part of the controller’s seams. You’ll be able to slide the outside grip portion of the controller away to reveal the battery compartment. Rather than a screw or a snap to hold it in place, the cover slots in thanks to a magnet. A nice touch, as it not only removes the need for screwdrivers, but also the risk of breaking or wearing down a plastic tab. Another smart bit of design: rather than having the lanyards attach with a tiny loop that’s nigh impossible to remove without tweezers, the lanyard is held in place with a plastic plug that hides inside of the battery compartment. To remove the lanyard, open the battery compartment and remove the plug (but for god’s sake, leave it on—you or someone you know will throw the controller, it’s only a matter of time).

oculus-touch-review-15Touch’s design is impressive and beautiful throughout, but I can’t quite understand why, in typical Apple fashion, they insisted on making all the parts your fingers touch in glossy black plastic which shows your fingerprints so easily. The face especially—which has one small matte segment that doesn’t suffer the same fate—looks pretty the first time you open the box, then it will remain smeared with finger oils for the rest of eternity.

Setup

setupLike Rift, Oculus put a ton of time into making a polished setup experience for Touch. Once you plug in your second Sensor, you’ll be prompted to configure Touch, which will walk you through Sensor placement, controller syncing, and Guardian (boundary) setup.

Setup is pretty simple and it’s something you should get used to, as you may want to play with different Sensor configurations to see what suits your space best. The default setup that Oculus recommends consists of two Sensors spaced 3-6 feet apart directly in front of you. You’ll probably be tempted to point them inward, but one of the steps will have you adjust them so that they’re facing nearly parallel to one another. Having two Sensors, it seems, is less about getting ‘stereo’ tracking, and more about expanding the available tracking volume. Note: you won’t be able to get through Setup with just one Sensor.

One of the steps during setup will ask you to pair your controllers. Fortunately, unlike some generic Bluetooth devices you may have used, this is nearly seamless. You’ll be prompted to hold the menu and one of the face buttons on one controller until a white LED starts blinking. From here the controller will be found, synced, and get a wireless firmware update if needed. You’ll do the same with the other controller before moving on to configure your boundary.

Guardian Configuration

optimalUsing a Touch controller, you’ll map out your available playspace. Holding the trigger down while setting the boundary will constantly buzz the controller to let you know that it’s still being tracked. If you lose tracking, the buzzing will stop. This, combined with feedback from your monitor (which shows the field of view of each camera), makes it easy to map out all available space while also figuring out how far the tracking boundaries extend.

After you trace around the available space, the system will automatically place the largest available rectangle within the bounds, which is where you’ll want to define your ‘center’ in the next step.

Based on the size of the rectangle, the setup will tell you if you have a space that’s smaller than the Minimum (3 x 3 ft), Moderate (between 3 x 3 and 7 x 5 feet), or Optimal (anything more than 7 x 5 ft).

We’ll talk more about the performance of this tracking space with the front-facing, 360, and room-scale camera configurations in the Performance section below.

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  • Tom

    Damn it, Ben! Can’t you proofread your articles at least once?! Always so many typos and this article is is no exception. It’s hard to believe you are the Executive Editor.
    I like the writing but invest a few minutes to proofread the text otherwise you loose credibility.Thanks.

    • Matt R

      ” is is no exception” ……Really!

      • Varmintbaby

        I know right.. lol. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black I don’t know what is….

        • Asaku

          Tom isn’t an Executive Editor…

          No offence intended.

        • Tom

          My mistake doesn’t invalidate my point that Ben’s articles are riddled with typos. And I don’t call myself an Executive editor of a “news publication”…

    • Mark Batcheler

      I’m not 100% confident saying this as I’m not sure if this is different outside of the UK (for example), however, shouldn’t “loose” be “lose”?

      • Hawk1290

        0 for 2, You’re correct Mark. Tom you’re losing credibility! ;)

    • wowgivemeabreak

      loose credibility. Yeah, too bad he doesn’t have tight credibility

    • benz145

      Hey Tom, everyone is susceptible to typos in their own work, even if they proofread it (it’s a quirk of the human brain that you tend to overlook the same errors you made the first time while proofreading). This was fully proofread by two people, but errors still get through. I’ll do another pass after having averted my eyes for a few hours now and probably catch a few more. Thanks for letting us know though.

      • Zerofool

        Ben (and the rest of the editors), I can recommend a neat approach that greatly helps in this – text-to-speech software. You can catch such mind-trick-y cases. The speech synthesis tech has come a long way and some of the voices sound really human-like, almost indistinguishable (22kHz ones). I’m not giving names to avoid being accused of promoting a certain product, but give some of them a try, you won’t regret it ;)

        • The ones I tried all sound a bit dodgy, can you recommend any?

          • Zerofool

            Sure, but only because you asked :). For the last 8+ years I’ve been using “Daniel” from ScanSoft/Nuance at +3 speed setting (it’s too slow otherwise). Haven’t found a better sounding one (to my taste) so far.

          • Thanks. Will take a look. It is actually for somebody I know with failing sight but does not like the robotic voices of computers. Worth a shot to look at :)

          • Zerofool

            Sure, you’re welcome. There’s an online demo for trying the voices out. Daniel is in the British English category. But feel free to try other ones as well. After all, it’s a matter of taste.

            http://www.nuance.com/landing-pages/playground/Vocalizer_Demo2/vocalizer_modal.html?demo=true

      • Tom

        I see what you are saying. Brain sure can play tricks. I even made some errors in my initial comment. :)
        I sure do appreciate what you are doing. It’s just that your articles don’t deserve having those blemishes that you leave in them. :)
        (English is my second language so please excuse any more errors from my side ;)

    • perfectlyreasonabletoo

      “otherwise you loose credibility”

      “loose”

  • Matt R

    A very informative and honest review. I look forward to trying my Touch controllers out tomorrow.

  • Mysticeti

    > it should be noted that this Sensor has the same length cable as the one that comes with the Rift

    Which is how long?

    • Tom

      if a quick search online proves accurate 2.5m (or 8.2ft). Admittedly I’m too lazy to measure mine even though it’s sitting right next to me.

      • Mysticeti

        Thanks man. All my searches ended up at people talking about USB extension cables, not the actual sensor cable itself.

  • Get Schwifty!

    “I was surprised to find that with just two Sensors I was able to completely fill the ‘roomscale’ space that Oculus recommends when using three cameras.”

    I’m not in the least, devs have been doing this for months on end, and in large enough spaces to easily qualify as “room scale” even with just two cameras with good tracking. Not too surprised really that adding the fourth camera doesn’t extend distance, but it’s there for additional tracking accuracy more than anything. Any tracking system is going to devolve quickly at it’s limit, so that is not too surprising.

    I find the comments that there is no real difference with the controllers to be a bit hard to buy, he’s perhaps one of the few reviewers (formal and not) who haven’t felt the Touch controllers are significantly more ergonomic and immersive than the wands. I suspect this comes from using the wands long enough that you just get used to them and look past their weaknesses in design. If there was no real difference in use then I highly doubt HTC would go to the effort to rework their design ;)

    • Get Derp!

      “I was surprised to find that with just two Sensors I was able to
      completely fill the ‘roomscale’ space that Oculus recommends when using
      three cameras.”

      It means that additional cameras are for tracking accuracy not tracking volume. At least that’s the dev’s intention.

      • Get Schwifty!

        I got that, just saying two cameras for room scale is known to work well, a 3rd well placed camera should only enhance tracking capability.

    • wowgivemeabreak

      I took his comment to mean the Touch controllers are much more ergonomic and natural but the performance with things like tracking isn’t much different and that seems logical to me.

    • benz145

      Touch IS significantly more ergonomic, wonderful to yous, and as I said, is a “much preferred over the Vive’s wand design.”

      Presence (as I often write it with a capital P), is something special, it’s different than “immersion”, it’s a deep state of subconscious immersion that is achieved when certain minimum thresholds are achieved. Oculus knows this well (http://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-shares-5-key-ingredients-for-presence-in-virtual-reality/). It’s generally agreed that both Rift and Vive can create Presence.

      So for them to claim that Touch has “Hand Presence” and allude that Vive’s controllers do not, means they think Touch passes some threshold that convinces your subconscious that your virtual hands are your own—some threshold that Vive controllers simply don’t pass. This I have not found to be true, even if Touch has a huge lead in ergonomic and functional design. Both controllers work well for motion tracked VR input, and even if Touch has a lead, as I said, “…is there a significant experiential difference between the two that puts Touch into some new class? Not really. Touch is an easy choice from a design and ergonomics standpoint, but feels no more usable for VR motion input than Vive’s controllers.”

      • Get Schwifty!

        Thanks for fleshing it out; I understood where you were coming from, and I suspect this quality of “hand presence” is somewhat subjective and I would be the first to admit is something of a marketing ploy to a degree. I would _think_ that a better ergonomic design would lead to a greater sense of “hand presence” but if that is not the case, that is disappointing somewhat but I suspect will come down to the user, as some folks may be more sensitive to the difference in sensation of holding a wand vs. the Touch.

        Still want to know if we can get a 4th sensor test ;)

        • ummm…

          as a vive owner id hazard to say there is a bit more hand presence with the touch, at least in most experiences. so, with that said, im happy about the new vive controllers under development. enjoy the touch bud!

          • Get Schwifty!

            Thanks mate !

  • Mysticeti

    “The default setup that Oculus recommends consists of two Sensors spaced 3-6 feet apart directly in front of you.”

    Does the setup complain if the Sensors are placed further apart? Say 9 feet?

    • benz145

      Good question. It will complain but generally you can skip ahead anyway and set up the Sensors as you’d like.

      • Mysticeti

        Thanks!

    • Jona Adams

      Yes it does.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    Thanks for the review and I am giddy to get my controllers. I got my Rift recently and haven’t used it much but I think it is great and have thought how awesome it should be with motion controllers so here’s hoping the reality lives up to what I think it should be like.

    I also look forward to the day we have high res displays and wireless headsets with inside out tracking. The res right now is decent but it just makes me really want a future high res display with much less pixel grid being visible for the increased immersion.

    The wired aspect is one reason why I don’t care too much about room scale even though I like the concept. I have an 8×9 foot space in my room and have walked around a bit using the Rift and I just don’t care much for having to deal with a cord hanging from my head since I find it to be a bit annoying and I keep thinking I will get too far away and it will be yanked out. I also have a slight concern while walking around I may be getting close to hitting something. I realize there is now going to be a system to show your boundaries but that might not change how my mind works and I can’t just shut off that cautious awareness part of my brain. Hopefully more moving around the area and getting used to my surroundings will lessen that issue for me.

    I’d really like that treadmill like tech to advance (forget the name of the product) and work well as that would be something I’d want to use in vr as the idea of being able to run around is very appealing.

  • perfectlyreasonabletoo

    They’re certainly elegant and lightweight but as wii and vive owners will attest, durability is also very important. That outer ring looks terribly flimsy.

    • Jona Adams

      Flimsy? No, it’s quite rigid.

    • DM

      The outer ring is solid, doesn’t even creak or flex when you try to flex it. It’s very well made and completely sturdy.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    Thanks Ben! don’t mind them your article are well written!! can’t wait to receive my touch and compared them to my vive’s controller!!