‘Telepath’ Movement System Could be a Great Fit for Quest Controllerless Hand-tracking


Controller-less hand-tracking (like what’s currently available as an experimental feature on Quest) has a handful of advantages over using controllers, like convenience and intuitiveness. However, common VR game actions like shooting and moving are difficult to do with hand-gestures alone. Aldin, the studio behind Waltz of the Wizard, has developed a new approach to VR locomotion called Telepath, and it could be a great fit for controller-less hand-tracking.

Aldin rolled out the first-generation of its Telepath system back in late 2017 with its VR classic, Waltz of the Wizard. The system lived on in an expanded version of the game, Waltz of the Wizard: Extended Edition, when it launched in 2019. Today the studio revealed an upgraded version of Telepath with new features that improve and refine the locomotion scheme.

In a blog post the studio overviewed its purpose behind Telepath which it says is to make an intuitive movement system which is comfortable and doesn’t discourage physical player movement. They also show how the Telepath system can work quite seamlessly with controller-less hand-tracking; if true that’s a boon because there is no simple way to effectively map thumbstick locomotion to hand gestures.

The new Telepath system is available as of today in Waltz of the Wizard: Extended Edition, and Aldin says it will roll out Quest once Oculus allows developers to publish content which makes use of the headset’s hand-tracking capabilities.

The studio previously explained its ‘Ghostline’ analytics system which it uses to understand player behavior in depth; the studio says that the data shows that Telepath is comfortable and causes players to be more physically interactive with the VR world compared to thumbstick movement. While teleport and thumbstick movement are available in the game, Aldin says that 90% of users chose to stick with Teleport after being told that the other options were available.

Three Totally Creative Uses of Quest Hand-tracking

Beyond demonstrating the ability for Telepath to work with controller-less hand-tracking, Aldin is also rolling out new Telepath features: Presence Control, Smooth Motion Mode, and Arc Roll.

Oculus Quest has experimental controller-less hand-tracking which can be enabled in the headset’s settings. Developers aren’t yet permitted to publish applications that use the tech. | Image courtesy Oculus

Presence Control, as Aldin calls it, attempts to understand player intent without any button presses while adjusting the movement along a given path in real-time. The studio gives the example of being able to step away from the path to stop and interact with an object that catches your eye before continuing forward, or ducking behind an object for cover and having movement automatically pause.

While the default Telepath system moves players in short dashes along the path, the new Smooth Motion Mode instead moves players smoothly. While this may be less comfortable for those more sensitive to artificial motion, it can be more immersive for players that are ok with it. Granted, Alind says Smooth Movement Mode tends to be more comfortable than regular thumbstick movement.

Arc Roll is a new feature which makes it easier to draw more complex paths, including around corners and through doorways. It works by taking into account the rotation of the player’s wrist to influence the control of the path cursor.

Oculus 'Designing for Hands' Document Introduces Best Practices for Quest Hand-tracking

Aldin says it plans to continue to develop Telepath to refine its features and continue to focus on measuring player intent—especially through new signals like eye-tracking—to make the system feel as natural as possible.

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  • MadMax1998

    „A handful of advantages“ — I see what you did there.

    • benz145

      Always makes me happy to know that people are reading closely ; )

  • Darshan

    Awesome tech, excited for quest implementation. elimination of controllers is big step benefits are reducing number of extra things required, saving power of Bluetooth, remove need to worry about batteries of controller, feeling more natural interaction within VR world. Hand recognition and multiple posture of hand and occlusion caused by certain signs of hands is challenge part.

    I can imagine it would be wonderful if sings of witcher can actually casted making gestures in air with tip of fingers(hard one for device) to releasing lightning like palatine in star-wars game (easy for device) using force grip/ force push/ force pull & telekinesis with your own hands is unmatched joy.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Elimination of controllers is only a big step for certain applications.. A lot of people still like the tactile feedback of controllers.

  • Lucidfeuer

    Very nice idea, although I don’t understand how the “step mechanism” reduces sickness quite the contrary. However a universal api that allows smooth movement with acceleration and deceleration mecanism, and hopefully reorienting in the future, seems like a very good locomotion solutions.

  • It is a great idea and I love it. But honestly, I don’t see it as the definitive solution for movement in VR. Imagine that you have a headcrab that is jumping on your face… I don’t think you’re willing to start drawing paths on the floor…

    • Hrafn

      Drawing only takes a tiny part of a second when you get the hang of it. And you don’t *have to* draw a path – you can point and click like you do with Teleporting, path auto-generates :-)

    • I think the standard for a functional VR locomotion system is competitive FPS matches. This certainly wouldn’t work for that. The Ascend movement scheme seems much more promising to me. It allows full motion with free use of hands at all times, apparently greatly reduces motion sickness and should be highly adaptable to different play styles.

      • Hrafn

        “This certainly wouldn’t work for that.”

        I’d be curious to know why you’d think that. Try the FPS labyrinth in Waltz, the hands-free approach makes it easier to focus on physical movement like short distance dodging, manipulations like reloading, etc., while features like arc roll make it easy to instantly change longer distance movement.

        • Competitive FPS play is run-and-gun chaos. You’re constantly changing direction and strategy on a dime. It’s a propulsive, adrenaline-fueled experience. I’m sure if everyone was using Telepath it could be an interesting experience, and might even technically “work”, but it would be a different style of play, and if even one player just used a thumbstick for movement the balance of play would be thrown way off. They’d essentially be a god. Having to trace your path with a free hand is not “hands-free”either, and seems very much like something that would break the momentum of play while taking precious moments of thought away to plan a path. I believe Ascend is a much better, more intuitive solution. If I was placing bets, it will likely become the standard as VR matures.

          • Hrafn

            Thanks for the more elaborate feedback! Sounds like you’re imagining that drawing a path takes ages, and that changing directions takes way less time on thumbstick. It doesn’t. Telepath then better enables physical movements, compared to thumbstick where people stand still *a lot*, allowing you to travel shorter distances and dodge in many directions fast on top of how quickly you can plot a new path. But I won’t claim it’s perfect. Yet.

          • I’m sure once you get proficient it would only take a moment to decide and draw a new path. Competitive FPS is a game of milliseconds though. Often you’re not so much deciding as reacting. A moment of hesitation can cost the match. Fast-twitch changes are required constantly. Compared to a thumbstick or even WASD, drawing paths for movement in the middle of a chaotic encounter just doesn’t allow the same experience. Have you looked at Ascend’s solution?

          • Hrafn

            Yeah, that’s why being better able to perform quick physical movements instead of mechanical escalator direction changes with a thumbstick can matter a whole deal. I’d question the motivations of being in VR in the first place if you don’t want a believable physical experience of being in a reality.

            I admit I have not tried Ascend’s controls, but my understanding is that it’s zero-g movement similar to Lone Echo?

          • In Lone Echo I think you’re just grabbing and pulling/pushing yourself off the environment to coast through zero-g. In Ascend you have free movement. Essentially the position of your headset in the play-space acts as a 3D joystick. There’s a center dead-space of 1-to-1 movement and outside of that you begin to accelerate in the direction your headset is in relation to the dead-space. This allows you to enter 1-to-1 movement by returning to the center of your play-space while quickly changing direction by bodily moving in the direction you want to move, all while allowing up-down motion, free use of hands and the ability to look in all directions while moving in another. I really can’t imagine a more intuitive locomotion method, and it’s highly tunable to your comfort by scaling the dead-space and relative acceleration when leaving it. Apparently the fact that you’re actually moving your body in the direction you want to go really helps with motion sickness as well.

          • Hrafn

            In Lone Echo you have boosters that can move you, controlled by direction of hand if I recall correctly. Thanks for the overview of Ascend. We have considered movement based on position within a play area and it has advantages, but a flaw is that it means you can’t physically move to edges of play area or physically without triggering artificial motion – or requires a rather large center space where position doesn’t affect artificial movement. You start thinking about your physical movements as an artificial controller, rather than perform actions as you would if you were really there.

          • Cool to hear that you’ve played with similar systems to Ascend. Their system would also need to be adapted for FPS play, I just feel that for full freedom of intuitive, or even instinctual movement, it’s the most promising I’ve seen. Obviously a lot of fine-tuning would need to be done to determine the optimal balance of 1-to-1 space and the border where relative acceleration starts. There should be visual cues when you’ve entered either space, whether on the periphery or overlaid in game for a quick glance to show where the dead-space box is. A toggle to enter full 1-to-1 would likely be necessary as well. Once the player has become immersed and the system becomes second nature the border between movement and 1-to-1 seems like it would meld, but I’m sure the only way to tell is plenty of playtesting. Telepath seems like a great system for more laid-back experiences like platforming, exploration and adventuring, but not tied so directly to the amygdala in the way an Ascend-type system is, if that makes any sense.

          • Hrafn

            Well, told you my view on Telepath in fast paced circumstances already. If you were worried about precision and sub-millisecond response times there, I would say what you’re describing sounds likely to be less precise than thumbsticks, require longer training time and manual user adjustments based on play area sizes, with more UI overlays, greater risk of unintended artificial movements plus requires larger playareas and commits user playareas for artificial mechanics which could otherwise be used for natural movement. On top of detracting from a believable physical experience and natural movement. Just to name a few factors to consider.

          • My criticism broadly applies only to run-and-gun experiences like Quake Arena or Unreal Tournament. Games like CounterStrike, Team Fortress, PubG, and Fortnite could fall in there as well, I haven’t played them extensively though so I can’t really comment. These are particular experiences that require constant forward movement and quick changes in trajectory without consciously thinking. Outside of this, Telepath seems like a great solution to me, even for many shooter-types – especially those that rely on cover mechanics. Any solution will have it’s drawbacks of course. With Telepath you retain 1-to-1 movement at all times, but extended movement outside the play-space is a bit divorced from player movements. Ascend is a bit of the opposite.

            I gather you’re on the dev team for Telepath, and have played around with Ascend-type mechanics so you’ll have a better sense than me of it’s drawbacks, and how adjusting different attributes for it would affect user experience. I imagine you’d need at least a 7ft circle to make it work well which is definitely a drawback, but with hardware like Quest becoming more common users should also have more flexibility there as well. Again, my interest is mostly finding a system that works for Quake Arena-type experiences, but I tend to think that whatever locomotion solution becomes tied to that will become the industry standard over time – similar to console FPS mechanics taking over from early platforming controls (ie. Goldeneye Honey controls vs Goldeneye Solitaire controls). Something about those experiences, aside from being very popular, seems to end up hard-wiring the brain more instinctively than any other, leading it to become the player preference over time, across game-types.