Earlier this week we shared our first hands-on with Microsoft’s VR controllers, but at the time the company didn’t allow us to document the session with photos or videos. Now, a developer with the controllers has produced a handy overview that shows how they work and gives a glimpse of them in action.
The Windows “Mixed Reality” (Microsoft’s term for AR and VR) controllers are unique among similar VR controllers (like those of the Rift and Vive) because they don’t require external sensor for motion tracking. Instead they are tracked by cameras on the VR headset (as far as we know, all of the Windows VR headsets will support the controllers). That means that setup is simplified, but also comes with a crucial downside which is that the controllers lose their positional tracking when outside of the camera’s view for more than a second or two.
Developer Sean Ong demonstrates this, while overviewing the controllers, by placing a bag over the tracking markers to block them from the camera’s view. When that happens the positional tracking is lost but the controller continues to reflect proper rotation thanks to internal rotation sensors. When the controller comes back into view of the camera, they pop back into place and regain positional tracking.
For many VR games and applications this limitation not even be noticeable, especially because Microsoft is doing a bit of prediction to compensate for brief moments of positional tracking loss, though it could impact the experience for some apps where players frequently have their hands outside of the camera’s field of view.
Otherwise, Ong’s experience matches my own thoughts after a hands-on with the controllers: the placement of the trackpad and thumbstick is a little strange, and while the tracking may have some limitations, it’s definitely functional.