Oculus had talked much about ‘Hand Presence’ with the launch of their Touch VR controllers last year, but few games have implemented the controllers in such a way that truly deliver on that promise. Combined with Touch, Lone Echo’s impressive procedural virtual hands take Hand Presence to the next level.

It’s not something you’d think is particularly important when it comes to immersion in VR, but our hands are our primary means of interacting with the world around us, and getting them ‘right’ in VR can make it that much easier to feel immersed and present inside of your virtual body.

Lone Echo (and multiplayer spinoff Echo Arena) developer Ready at Dawn has spent a considerable amount of time on the game’s virtual hands, and have achieved hands-down the most realistic looking implementation thanks to a smart procedural posing system which adapts the grip animation to each object and surface based on a physical model. We got a brief glimpse of the procedural gripping tech from the company earlier this year, and now in the recent Echo Arena open beta we’ve been able to good a closer look.

The robotic hands are not only beautifully detailed, they’re also impressively functional. You can grab any surface or object in the game, allowing you to push and pull yourself around the zero-G environment with ease. Each time you grip a surface you’ll see a unique arrangement of the fingers which lay upon the surface in an impressively convincing way.

The feeling of gripping around the corner of a surface and watching the fingers bend around it just right is surreal.

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Even after you grab, the grip pose is dynamic and continues to shift based on your arm position.

When it comes to arms in VR, the rule-of-thumb is to not show the player’s arms because it’s difficult to estimate their position when only the locations of the hands and head are known in a system of many joints. If the estimation of the arm is far off from the player’s actual arm position, it can be an immersion breaker. That’s why you see so many armless avatars in VR games.

Lone Echo turns that rule-of-thumb on its head with some of the best arm inverse kinematics (IK) that we’ve seen to date. Together with the procedural hand gripping, these systems drive added immersion in VR because it makes it easier to feel as if the arms and hands in front of you are really your own. Lone Echo & Echo Arena double down on this achievement by making many of the game’s interfaces and interactions touch-based, with functional virtual touchscreens rather than the all too often seen laser-pointer interface.

Although as humans we don’t even really need to think about our grip when we go to grab things, getting a computer to figure out how to realistically arrange fingers on a virtual hand is a surprisingly challenging problem. If you want to delve into the concepts and math behind the system, be sure to check out the presentation by Ready at Dawn’s Jacob Copenhaver.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Muddy

    very nicely done, imagine how even more awesome this would be with Knuckle controllers!

    • Bartholomew

      This game was funded by Oculus, so I think there will not be any support for the “Oculus Touch clone without thumbstick” in the future.

      • Firestorm185

        There is a bit more individualized finger tracking on the knuckles though, so even though that is probably true it’d still be interesting to see knuckles implementation.

      • NooYawker

        Are we really doing this already? Or should I say, again.

        • dogbite

          I know what you mean, Wha Wha Wha

      • Get Schwifty!

        I seriously doubt that, by the time those controllers are actually on the market and in use there will be a move to implement these, even if through some kind of hack.

        • Simplex

          Revive developer got Knuckles from Valve and is already working on implementation.

          • I DONT KNOW

            Good. There’s still no consumer release date.

      • Simplex

        Keep on hatin’…

        Actually I have bad news for you – Revive developer received knuckles controllers fro Valve and he is working on emulating Touch controllers on Knuckles.

      • Muddy

        I wasn’t meaning Lone Echo specifically, rather the combination of knuckles with this kind of proceedural hand presence in general. That aside, Valve have sent the Revive developer knuckles controllers so there may be hope for Lone Echo knuckles yet.

      • Caven

        There have been other titles that for the same reason were previously exclusive to the “PS Move clone with thumbstick”, yet later came to other platforms (Superhot VR, for instance). It remains to be seen whether or not the exclusivity holds.

  • Bartholomew

    Thank you Oculus for giving us another awesome VR game!

    • Me

      Well, by us you probably mean oculus users only. I would really like breakthrough like these to be available on other platforms as well, even if it means timed exclusives.

      • CURTROCK

        Yes, as purchasers of the “Oculus Rift”, we do enjoy certain games that are entirely funded by Oculus.

        • Derrek Kyzar

          Put me in the group of Oculus owners that are afraid that exclusive titles will fragment the market and hurt VR as a whole in the long run.

          • CURTROCK

            Another concern would be if there is no competition between rival HMD manufacturers, we wouldn’t have the either/or choice of products. The competition between Oculus/FB and HTC/Valve is already driving innovation. An example would be the new HTC deluxe audio strap, which brings it to parity with Rift. Another example will be the Knuckles controller which will most likely match or exceed the functionality of the Touch controller. Lone Echo is so good, consumers may choose to buy Rift because of it. That is the driving force for the investment to fund the game. If sales of either HMD don’t justify the investment, the manufacture of said HMD will cease. Oculus Studios are pursuing strategies that promote sales of it’s flagship product, while 3rd party studios do release games that are not exclusives. IE: Star Trek Bridge Crew (Ubisoft).

          • Derrek Kyzar

            I agree that competition is needed for the hardware. We are already seeing that with the Knuckle and the wireless adapter for the Vive. And yes the hardware will most likely lead to games that only work with say, the Knuckle. I just think that games should benefit VR as a whole. I certainly understand why Oculus is doing it. If what I have read is true, Vive is outselling Rift 2:1 and they need some momentum and an awesome exclusive game could bridge the gap. My fear is coming from a place that is concerned I backed the wrong horse and developers won’t want to make games for the Rift if they have to worry about them being exclusive and cutting off the Vive which is the biggest base. All this could be nothing with ReVive so I am definitely willing to admit I am wrong and will be relieved if that is so. Just thinking about history of new tech and there is usually a loser. VHS vs Betamax, Blu Ray vs HD DVD, Sirius and XM (ok, they merged). And in the case of the first 2 examples, the superior tech lost. VHS won because of porn, and HD DVD lost because of studio money against it.

            So again, I hope I am wrong and very well might be. My opinions are coming from a place of fear. :)

          • Mane Vr

            the only games exclusives to the rift are games funded by facebook there are game exclusive to the vive which isn’t funded by htc yet no complains about that

          • Duane Locsin

            because that is up to the publishers/developers, HTC and Valve have stated they want an open platform to allow devs/publishers more freedom as opposed to F/O walled garden approach.

            Fall Out 4 VR and Doom VFR are coming to the Vive (and possibly PSVR), but we all know better not to blame HTC or Valve for that. That is the decisions of the devs/publisher Bethesda/Zenamax.

          • Caven

            I wish that were true, but some people do actually blame HTC and Valve for the decisions of Bethesda/Zenimax.

            Edit: Just to clarify, I am not one of those people.

          • Mane Vr

            Huh htc or value isn’t giving dev the choices the ability to give them choices would come from funding amd they r not giving any game. I am so sick of this whole walled crap steam is walled it’s oculus who allow their hmd to be able to be use on steam not the other way around… it u didn’t buy ur game on steam can u launch it to steam? No u can’t because it’s closed off everyone does it so just stop this bs

          • Cl

            I’d rather someone win from having a better headset, not better games. Let’s say oculus wins and the others dissapear. Do you really think that would help push vr tech further or would facebook milk it? Personal info and all.

            Think of Intel vs amd. Amd was out of the picture for a while so Intel slowed down, raise prices and such. If you could only use Windows OS on Intel for example amd would be gone for good most likely and Intel would still be milking.

            I would think different if they were standalone headsets and you didn’t have to connect them to a computer.

          • Skippy76

            Brings it to parity? Sorry but the Vive surpases the rift in many ways. Mainly the room scale tracking, i still constanly hear rift users complaining when playing REc Room. They need 3 sensors and still lose tracking all the time. The controller is all the rift has right at the moment but like you said. Soon it wont be an issue with the new controllers.

          • CURTROCK

            By parity, I was referring to a comfortable head strap and built in headphones, like Rift has. Not once in my statement did I say either HMD was better than the other. They are both great.

          • Get Schwifty!

            PSVR does more to fragment the market for VR than anything else. Considering most games can be played by Rift users through Steam, and most games on Rift can be played by Vive users via Revive, it’s a straw man argument.

          • I DONT KNOW

            The ratio of correct to incorrect uses of “straw man argument” on the internet is 4:800.

          • Duane Locsin

            You can argue that the PSVR has made VR more accessible to the masses with its lower entry point and anyone with a PS4 is only a headset away from experiencing it.

            games like Batman eventually make it’s way to Vive/Rift and some games like Job Simulator makes it’s to the PSVR.

            It’s exclusives that fragment the VR, when VR at this early stage does not need that.

            I have a Gear VR, PSVR and Vive.

          • kingka

            As long as it works with Revive, why would you have any issues?

          • nebošlo

            I have mixed feelings on this. On one hand, we could have more titles to choose from if it weren’t for these walled gardens. But at the same time, would there be as many interesting titles if it wasn’t for the competition? I don’t think so.

          • Duane Locsin

            the competition is see is coming from the hardware Vive has the controllers out of the box, Rift eventually release their touch controls….now Vive will be receiving the ‘Knuckles’ controllers by Valve…..and also wireless solutions from TP cast look very promising and there it the audio deluxe strap.

            in regards to software…it doesn’t look that clear cut to me.

          • I DONT KNOW

            Vive owners can just use revive. The alternative is that the game doesn’t get made and nobody can play it.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Revive doesn’t work with this?

        Seeing these in use – gotta pick that up and check it out for no other reason than to experience the procedural hand gripping…

        • Simplex

          Revive works, there were even new Revive versions quickly released to fix issues with the game.

          • Get Schwifty!

            Thanks for the info-

      • OkinKun

        Revive seems to work fine in Echo Arena, lots of vive players on sometimes. ;D

      • Would it blow your mind to hear there are even some Vive users playing it with ReVive?

      • I DONT KNOW

        Oculus publishes this. You’re asking for Mario Kart on your Playstation.

      • Serge Mikhael

        there’s a third party application that let’s you play oculus games on the VIVE and another app that let’s you play vive games on the oculus ;)

    • Heimdal

      Ready at Dawn is bringing you the game. If you are talking about money, than thank Facebook.

  • Lucidfeuer

    This is one of VR’s most interesting project. This would be great if after the release of Lone Echo the semantic grabbing engine was released as an sdk.

    And I though that RaD was a Sony studio, but it’s seem that it’s yet another talented one they didn’t secure the exclusivity of.

  • Sam R

    wow, amazing!

  • Ombra Alberto

    For once. Instead of feeding the Vr war.
    Why not just comment on the game?

    • Duane Locsin

      I personally don’t like this war, as it reminds me too much of the ‘console wars’ and ‘pcs vs macs’.

      I can see where it would have it’s drawbacks for those who only have one of the other, and missing out.

      at the same time, I can see the ‘competition breeds innovations, improvements and one up manship as a good thing.

      I think VR is still very early and a healthy “war” is better then a dead landscape.

  • Citizen One

    The graphics look awesome! Till now RobinsonVR was the measure of all things VR to me. Hope this is as good.
    The Touch controllers are ok, but for games like these it’d be much much better to be able to interact with the hands directly ie using LeapMotion or VRgloves… That’s why it’s a pity Oculus doesn’t open up its dlls / allows other devices access. Thank you HTC/Valve for having understood this concept!