Logitech today revealed the VR Ink ‘Pilot Edition’, a stylus built for art and design in VR. Built with SteamVR Tracking tech, the stylus works similarly to a typical SteamVR controller, but affords the natural precision that comes with precise finger control. While it works well for drawing in the air, a pressure-sensitive tip also makes it great for drawing (and potentially evening writing) against a physical surface.

Aimed toward enterprises using VR for digital design workflows, Logitech says that it plans to bring the VR Ink stylus to market in the near future. For the company, today’s announcement of the ‘Pilot Edition’ is about getting the word out and soliciting interest from companies who want to use or integrate apps with the VR Ink stylus.

I got a hands-on demo of the VR Ink Pilot Edition and came away suitably impressed with what Logitech has put together, both in performance and functionality.

Photo by Road to VR

Though it’s ‘just’ a stylus, the VR Ink has a surprising number of controls built right in. On the sides where you grip the stylus are two grip pads which can be squeezed as a form of input. On the top where your index finger rests is a pressure sensitive button at the front, an oval-shaped trackpad/button in the middle, and a smaller menu button in the back. There’s also on-board haptics, and the end of the stylus has a pressure-sensitive tip which allows for pressure-sensitive writing against physical surfaces.

It’s definitely bigger than a regular pen or pencil, but actually impressively compact when you consider all of the electronics that need to fit inside, and easy enough to grip just as you would a real writing implement.

Photo by Road to VR

The whole stylus uses SteamVR Tracking tech (supporting 1.0 and 2.0 base stations), and it can be easily used to draw lines in the air in art and design apps. For that purpose, it does feel more natural to use the pointy end of a stylus for tracing lines than using a big controller which restricts finer motions to wrist control, whereas a stylus benefits from fine finger control. Many readers on this site will be familiar with painting or drawing in 3D using VR, but the more exciting part of VR Ink is its ability to also draw precisely against a flat surface.

Photo by Road to VR

The stylus is a tool that’s been around for a millennia, and for good reason—the ‘free’ feedback of actually pushing a writing implement against a surface works perfectly in conjunction with the fine motor control that our fingers are capable of.

To make a stylus really work for surface drawing in VR, you need a lot of precision, and so far the VR Ink has impressed on that front. Largely driven by SteamVR Tracking, but undoubtedly assisted by the stylus’ pressure-sensitive tip, drawing against a table feels really natural. I’m by no means a digital artist who spends every day with a Wacom tablet, but I’ve used my fair share of tablet PCs with active digitizers (including the Surface Book as my primary laptop), and VR Ink’s drawing and pressure sensitivity felt very comparable.

I would go so far to say that the precision ought to be enough to comfortably allow for regular sized handwriting, but the apps that Logitech were showing off unfortunately weren’t tuned for this purpose. I did try anyway of course, and it worked reasonably well, but didn’t look quite right, and it was clear to me that the app (and its interpretation of the pressure input) was trying to infer drawing strokes rather than the small, quick, and sharp strokes that make up written characters. From my time with the stylus, it feels like an app designed with handwriting in mind could really work well.

This demo app (above) was designed for drawing and not handwriting, but with some software tweaks the VR Ink stylus seems like it really could be up to the task.

Granted, there was some occasional stuttering of the stylus, though for the most part it seemed occlusion related, which could be fixed with better base station placement. The demo room was using four 2.0 base stations mounted above head height (which is typically what you want), but mounting them just above table height might actually allow for better view of the stylus, especially when the user is leaning over the stylus as they draw or write.

If Logitech’s VR Ink can indeed deliver the precision needed for ‘real’ handwriting in VR, it could be the solution to one of VR’s fundamental problems: text input. Though drawing and designing in VR is undoubtedly useful and even fun, a huge portion (majority?) of productivity work requires text input.

But that’s so far an unsolved problem in VR. There have been attempts with voice input, virtual keyboards, and even real tracked keyboards (something Logitech itself explored), but none have proven to be effective solutions, typically due to slow input speeds (or a lack of sufficient hand tracking). A VR stylus that’s good enough for handwriting could be the key.

SEE ALSO
Tactical Haptics to Open Pre-orders for 'Reactive Grip' Dev Kits on May 29th

For Logitech’s part, they aren’t yet pushing hard on handwriting input specifically—they’re pitching the VR Ink stylus as a more intuitive and precise tool for drawing in VR, either in 3D or against a flat surface (and they aren’t wrong). If they succeed in getting VR Ink adopted in the enterprise VR space, hopefully a focus on handwriting in VR as text input will the next logical step for the device.

Beyond Logitech, the VR Ink stylus is also a win for Valve, as it shows not only how versatile their SteamVR Tracking tech can be, but also how their commitment to an open VR platform is enabling for others. VR Ink couldn’t work with Oculus headsets because the company doesn’t allow third-parties to make use of its tracking systems.

– – — – –

Logitech is only just revealing the VR Ink Pilot Edition, though they say this isn’t a prototype and that it’s absolutely coming to market. Exactly when and at what price point, though isn’t clear.

The company is of course using this opportunity to connect with more partners who are interested in using or integrating with the VR Ink stylus, though they’re already touting initial integrations with Tilt Brush and Vector Suite, and committing to an SDK for both Unity and Unreal Engine.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.


  • KOSTANTINOS KOD

    If you could write using your finger in real life would you use a stylus? That device aint a good idea.

    • jj

      wrong. you clearly aren’t an artist.

    • Caven

      With my Samsung Galaxy Note phone, I have the choice of writing on the screen with my finger or with the included stylus. Writing with the stylus is a far superior experience.

      • KOSTANTINOS KOD

        You are correct. You dont have the choice to be as accurate as you can be when you write with your hand, your fingers are huge.
        Thats not true in vr.

    • psuedonymous

      Yes, I would use a stylus. A Stylus is controlled by inputs from multiple fingers and the wrist, giving fine and rapid control over a small contact point. Even with a thimble or similar added to a fingertip to shrink the contact point, a single finger and slower and less precise than multiple fingers working in tandem.

      • Nepenthe

        I also prefer a fork or spoon for eating over my bare fingers. It’s almost as if handheld tools such as utensils and styli confer a mechanical advantage to the human hand.

        • KOSTANTINOS KOD

          VR is the situation were your fingers are sharper don’t hurt,dont get dirty and much more. :) its illogical to reduse your body accurasy using something in between. This tool looks like an expensive condom to me.

          • Jeff Recobs

            It doesn’t reduce your body’s accuracy it enhances it. Which is the point these fine people are trying to convey. If you don’t think it’s a good idea you don’t have to buy it. Something tells me it will exist without your approval. Much like everything else in the world.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            Well idd i will not :), theres a reason this get rushed in a small market and its not that it will be there for long. Cant help but to get negative when i see what this doin to new people in vr.

        • Kiran Phalak

          do you eat pizza with fork?

          • Nepenthe

            Not usually, but for an unwieldy pizza now and then, I have.

            I also did the same for a giant hamburger a couple months back.

      • KOSTANTINOS KOD

        Your pointing finger remains attached to your hand in vr also and theres no weight to hold you back ,If you dont believe me take a chuckle and draw a circle on a board, than just dirt your finger and do that again. This will prove to you that single finger is more accurate and fast than holding a chuckle.
        If you like to use condoms for more accurate contact with nature its your choice,but i dont believe this idea will have any future.

        • Jistuce

          Now sign your name with a piece of chalk, then again with your chalky finger.

    • Rob H

      So do you still finger paint like a cave man while the rest of the world uses pens, pencils and paintbrushes? I’m really not understanding your point here. Writing and drawing utensils have a massive increase in accuracy over using your finger, for a number of different reasons – for example, there’s a reason you’re handed stylus to sign your name on touch screen devices. While I don’t like the design of this particular device as it’s far too big to be ideal yet, it’s a start at least. I’m seriously confused, have you never learner to write or something? Even if you had ink naturally flow from the tip of your finger, the advantages of still using a pen are plainly obvious in terms of accuracy and speed.

      • KOSTANTINOS KOD

        I cant convince you about the fact that your finger can look like anything you want in vr ,i dont need to ,i will let time to do that. But…i wouldn buy that dildo sized ,even if i was wrong :) Everyone is free to try it, that just my opinion.

        • Rob H

          Ever wondered why pens aren’t just some kind of thimble for the end of your finger? Writing with a stylus type instrument is far more accurate as you have a lot more control and it’s far quicker as you can use micro movements to make large sweeps. Making your finger look like anything in VR doesn’t change the fact that in reality…it’s still a finger.

    • Teku

      Have you ever used a small, complex interface via a touch screen? Steve Jobs famously said that the best pointing device is your finger and criticized styluses. Apple then went on to admit that he was wrong by creating the Apple Pencil and now they’ve added mouse support to iOS 13. Video editing or using a DAW via touch is very unwieldy. Complex interfaces require complex inputs.

      Why were pencils, pens, paint brushes, etc ever invented and prevalently used if we could have just painted with fingers or attach a bit of lead to our finger? If you don’t believe that was necessary, regardless of that, artists all over the world are used to using a stylus, and that is what is used professionally, so it makes sense to create a product where they can operate more closely to how they do professionally.

      We’ve had touch screens for a long while now and still professional artists use wacom tablets.

      • KOSTANTINOS KOD

        This is a vr stylus.NOT a one. This is something to hold when using a stylus or not any way you choose in the vr world.. Adding a physical weight to your hand when all your hands need is freedom.

        • Teku

          This is a real physical stylus, not a virtual object. It even has pressure sensitivity. You can draw on physical surfaces with it, not just in the air. Again, I think there’s a point to drawing with pencils and brushes instead of fingers. Now I know I’m not supposed to give my opinion, but I think there are better, more precise tools for art than fingers.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            Sure .. if you want you can hold something even if your fingers already can look and be like a tool,just dont pay for it ,Tracking tech’s like this are here, its just companies trying to sell useless tools again and again hold them back.
            Opinions are precious , they are the reason we are here,only egopathic people with interest’s don’t like them.

          • Teku

            I appreciate your perspective on opinions, a lot.

            Thinking more about using fingers versus a tool, the only way I can think of to have pressure sensitivity to work with your fingers is to create a surface that can measure that pressure, which I don’t feel is as useful of a tool as a stylus that you can use on any surface you please that will measure that sensitivity, that way you would not be limited by the size or texture of the surface.

            I’m not sure how possible it is to create your own tool. Certainly HTC sells the tracker, but if you were to create your own tool, you would then have to develop your own software to use that tool, which is no small feat. I assume that Logitech’s tool will be shipping with the software featured in the video, or compatibility with some existing VR art software.

            If you’re aware of the existence of VR art software that works with a tool that you can cobble together, please let me know, as I have several people that would be really interested.

          • KOSTANTINOS KOD

            You mean pinch or processing and tool detection? You can youtube these worlds +vr i m not here to advertise anyone :)

  • The Bard

    Interesting. Kostantinos, finger is not a precise as stylus, think about it.

    • KOSTANTINOS KOD

      Even if i was wrong and you were correct the fact that this is a dildo sized tool and not a stylus remain.

      • jj

        so now you’re just making shit up to try and prove your clearly wrong point… you know theres like ten people chiming in to tell you you’re an idiot right?

        also if u think thats the size of a dildo or male unit, i feel terribly sorry for your wife…

        • KOSTANTINOS KOD

          I m really sory if logic hurts your truth and opinion, i was only trying to help you.

          • jj

            “you know theres like ten people chiming in to tell you you’re an idiot right?” so im sorry if everyones logic hurts your opinion but lying doesnt make your point become any more true.

      • I have a Midwifery Represent! Gif for ya. Gloves, 2 finger salute.

        • KOSTANTINOS KOD

          Nah this is a 23cm and 6cm wide stylus, lets all hope they dont cancel this tragic idea :)

  • Icebeat

    maybe a bit big (diameter), but a clever idea.

  • Anachronic that they are releasing an outside-in peripheral when the industry is in the middle of pivoting by inside-out tracking.

    That aside, having the pen always within the headset’s line of sight would completely eliminate the oclusion issue.

    • dogtato

      This may be a use case where the increased precision of outside-in is useful.

    • Graham J ⭐️

      Leaving aside that Lighthouse is outside-in, it’s mainly the low to medium end consumer industry that is implementing the cost cutting measure of markerless. Lighthouse remains the best tracking solution on the market.

    • duplissi

      Its not.

      Entry level and more consumer friendly or accessible HMDs are moving to camera based inside out, But all enthusiast and enterprise level HMDs offer Lighthouse tracking (there is one other system that vr arcades and enterprise uses, but I forget what it was called).

      Reason being: lighthouse tracking is still the most accurate and pricise method on the market.

      This is a tool, one that needs that accuracy and precision. If it were to uses a different system, the product itself would suffer for it.

      Furthermore afaik steamvr is currently the only vr platform that allows for tracked accessories.

  • Foreign Devil

    I’m hoping this can vastly improve feedback for sculpting in VR. Need a finely tuned pressure sensitivity button.

    • KalamazAndy

      It’s not a pressure sensitive button though. Just look at them using it. It’s doing brush strokes on speed, and they are manually choosing a brush. The actual Tip is touch sensitive, to a Surface…Why? Why would you do this? My money is this product won’t even come out. There’s also still no haptic feedback. If you can get over drawing in 3D space, you can hold something that isn’t a pencil. The idea that people can only understand drawing with pencils have never seen the crazy talented people who draw with their mouse. That blows my mind. I’ve got to run over to the cintiq or my surface if I just want a really nice complex selection. One of my coworkers can legit draw with his mouse. Not One person could draw in 3D though. That was hilarious. The quotes they have of some people saying it made things faster and higher quality? That’s a giant joke. An accurate quote would be, “based on how I’m seeing my designers use this, once they get familiar with the tool, I think we will see an increase in quality and time to market.” Still probably bullshit, but at least it’s not a Complete lie. Remember the 3D printer pens? This is basically a virtual version of those, without the structural constraints. There are a few artists who spend Way too much time using it, and things are ok. Everyone else is like….Wow, this is a waste of time. I would add, “for now” to that, but that’s true. For now, it’s not very refined. You don’t get a decent 3D software in a few months, even if you throw a ton of money at it.

      • laurette

        Just one yr ago I chose to give up my prior job and I am extremely joyful at this time…. I began doing work on-line, for an organization I noticed on-line, only a few hour or so every day, and I gain even more than I did on my office workplace job… previous month was 9,000 bucks… The best thing regarding this is the more spare time I obtained for my children…and that the single requirement for this gig is basic typing and access to broadband… I am able to put in quality time with my family members and friends and also take good care of my little kids and also going on holiday break with them very consistently. Don’t ignore this chance and try to take action quick. Test it out, what it’s about… concepttrumpet.im-internet.eu

  • Rosko

    How much is this going to set me back?

    • Jerald Doerr

      Knowing Logitech… I’m guessing it’s going to be $299…

      • enola

        I honestly acquire about $8050 each month using the broadband. This web based task provided pleasure to execute the task from just about anywhere globally. Now I am prepared to spend even more valuable time with my mate and small children and can head out for astounding family vacations. The directions are really simple, you don’t have to be a Laptop expert, although you need to know how to utilize the world wide web. If you can fill up forms and browse web sites, you can do it thoroughly, You don’t really need to sell anything at all as well as no-one has to buy anything. It’s as basic as using Youtube. Here’s the means by which to begun ->->-> bowenfaulty.mobi.ps

        • Larry J

          OH SHIIII…..!

    • wheeler

      It’s targeted at enterprise so I would imagine quite a bit

    • Given that it sounds like a hard to lose…only it gray…universal stylus (USI) without even haptics for virtualizing the paint scrims, $80 (40 at market.) Maybe $70 if the ‘onboard’ haptics work well. Maybe $700 if they also offer waldoes so you can finely carve or grow menacing granite Elven walls once you are satisfied with the pretend ones.

  • I wonder how much is big the market for this thing… how many people are interested in this tool? To do what?

    • Who’s this?

      3D modeling would be one big use.

  • Jerald Doerr

    Everything I own is Logitech…. I’m just a sucker for there stuff like a brother is for Nike.. I’ve probably had more than 16 mice, 12 keyboards 10 headsets.. 2 Driving Wheels… 3 controls, 1 flight stick..

    I’m really glad Logitech is getting in the VR side of things epashaly using Steam VR Tracking!! This is there second product…

    I was super excited about the VR keyboard and would have got one but I just don’t use VR and keyboard at the same time enuff to get one…

    Anyone ever uses the VR keyboard? If so what are your thoughts?

    https://youtu.be/cirYAzOPpnk

    • jj

      going through that many mice keys and headsets doesnt make me want a logitech device, that sounds like they break way way way too often

    • Who’s this?

      I was a Logitech fanboy too but the design flaw in the 933 with the headband coupled with the brand new mouse I bought having a failure on the right click so soon is quite troubling. So I switch to a Razer Keyboard/Mouse combo. But I still have a Logitech wireless headset since this cheap ass communication headset is one of the few wireless headsets IN THE WORLD with a none trash mic.

      I am not exaggerating, >90% of all wireless headset mics worldwide are subpar at best. It’s pathetic what they choose to divert resources to, RGB, all kinds of BS instead of crisp mic transmission.

      Either way, Logitech needs to step up their game on build quality first tbh. Though I would love to have one unified interface for my gaming perhiperials, so having all Logitech would be nice but between crappy mic audio and equipment that can’t handle high intensity runs… It’s not serving me very well. :(

      • Jerald Doerr

        I agree with you 100% Whos This…

        Lol… it’s funny you say all this… I took out a lot of text because I thought my post was getting too long… Most of what I took out was (everything breaks) but also people should understand my numbers come from over 30 years of using computers and I’m not too sure how long Logitech has been around.

        One thing I should also say is out of all the broken products I had I only sent 2 items in for Warranty and they sent me either refurbished or new items back asap…

        Right now I have a pair of refurbished 933 and a new G903 mouse with a wireless Corsair backlit mechanical keyboard because Logitech doesn’t have that option.
        I’ve had this setup for maybe a year and everything is doing good….

        Hopefully, this product will last and not break at the tip do to use or anywhere else the 1st time you drop it…

  • mirak

    It will cost a hand, but luckily we have the other one to write.

  • mirak

    I think this product will not be usable without varifocal displays.
    It’s already painfull for the eyes just to read text on a virtual paper, not because of resolution, but because the focus of the lenses is set at many meters away, and there will be a vergence accomodation conflict when you look closely.

    So I can’t imagine spending even 10 minutes drawing without having a huge eye strain.

  • KOSTANTINOS KOD

    A solution.. some people really need something to hold between 3 fingers to be more accurate , hold a toothpick or smt and save some money,this is an adv.
    The needs to exist in an add title proves that it doesn’t.

  • KOSTANTINOS KOD

    leepmotion does that without holding anything..but you could if you wanned to.

  • Jarilo

    That’s pretty freaking cool actually.