After teasing us last week, Oculus has released more revealing photos of the latest design of their Touch VR controllers. Not seen on the previous ‘Half Moon’ prototype is a mysterious pattern to the left of the buttons, as well as a new button.
Moving on from the Touch ‘Half Moon’ prototype which the company revealed in mid 2015, Oculus is now showing what appears to be a near-final version of the Touch VR controller.
Since the Half Moon prototype we can see that the IR tracking LED’s have been hidden underneath what’s most likely IR-transparent plastic (just like the consumer Rift). There’s also now a new button with an Oculus icon on it, which will likely be used as a ‘Home’ button to return to the Rift’s pre-app VR environment.
In addition to a more mature looking industrial design and modified thumbstick, we see a mysterious new feature added to the top surface of the controller next to the buttons. At first glance it looks to be a speaker of sorts, but with the Rift most often likely to be used with headphones (and Oculus spending so much time working on 3D audio through software) a speaker makes little sense to be included on the controller, unless for some non-VR applications (Nintendo’s Wiimote actually did this, albeit poorly). A microphone is also plausible, but with the Rift already including a built-in mic, placing one on each controller doesn’t seem likely.
With that in mind, the new area may be simply a tactical hint, giving users an obvious area to place their thumb when not using the Rift’s thumbstick or buttons. Although many game console controllers expect users to keep their thumbs on the sticks at all times, Oculus made Touch as a hybrid device, expecting that many uses won’t need the sticks or buttons at all, but wanting to keep them there for the experiences that would benefit from them.
If the newly seen feature on Touch is indeed a tactile surface, it also seems like that is it capacitive (able to sense the touch of a user’s finger). The majority of the buttons and triggers on Touch are also capacitive, allowing the system to understand where you are touching the controller even if you aren’t actually pressing any buttons. This can help with understanding the user’s actual hand position, allowing for gestures like pointing and thumbs-up.
While Oculus Rift pre-orders will open this week, the company says that Touch won’t ship until the second half of 2016, with pre-orders coming a few months prior.