Meta today announced “major improvements” coming to Quest 2’s controllerless hand-tracking capability. The ‘re-architected computer vision and machine learning approach’ is said to specifically improve reliability for overlapping or fast moving hands and specific gestures. The SDK and OS update to enable these improved capabilities will begin rolling out today.

Meta first introduced controllerless hand-tracking to the original Quest back in late 2019 where it remained an ‘experimental’ feature until mid-2020 when it began allowing developers to use the new capability in their apps.

Since then we’ve seen a handful of games incorporate hand-tracking into their apps and even the launch of some games that exclusively rely on hand-tracking, like Hand Physics Lab (2021) and Unplugged: Air Guitar (2021).

Now, a little less than a year later, Meta says it’s bringing “major improvements” to Quest 2’s hand-tracking capability (the company confirmed the original Quest will not receive these improvements).

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The improvements come thanks to a ‘re-architected computer vision and machine learning approach’ which improves the robustness of hand-tracking in key ways.

With the 1.0 version of hand-tracking on Quest 2, the system had particular trouble recognizing the user’s hands when they obstructed or touched each other and when moving quickly. From the user’s point of view, their virtual hands would disappear momentarily during these lost tracking moments and then reappear once the system detected them again.

With the 2.0 version of hand-tracking on Quest 2, Meta says the system will handle those obstructed and fast-moving scenarios much better, leading to fewer instances of disappearing hands. The company calls it a “step-function improvement in tracking continuity.”

The update is also said to improve gesture recognition in the hand-tracking system. Gesture recognition looks for specific hand-poses which the system detects as unique and can therefore be used as inputs. For instance, pinching is one such gesture and it’s employed to allow users to ‘click’ on elements in the Quest interface.

In the demo below, a ‘grab’ gesture is used to hold the virtual object, and the improvement in robustness for clapping is demonstrated as well.

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Meta says the hand-tracking 2.0 update on Quest 2 will begin rolling out via an SDK and OS update starting today. The company says developers who have already built hand-tracking into their apps won’t need to change any API calls in order to use the upgraded system, though it won’t be automatically enabled. The company says developers can reference “upcoming documentation” for enabling it in their apps.

The move should bring Quest 2’s hand-tracking a step closer to Ultraleap, which has maintained some of the best hand-tracking in the industry to date, though it isn’t clear yet how the two systems will stack up.

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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."
  • xyzs

    Very nice to see these improvements.
    Is there any progress regarding latency as well ?

    Can any OpenXR app/games use the hand tracking result inside external apps ? (thinking of MS FlightSimulator by example)

    • Ragbone

      That would be amazing. So amazing and obvious that they probably won’t do it.

      • ViRGiN

        Why not? Meta is not Valve, who loves to promise a ton and do nothing. Still waiting for that price drop off lighthouses and tracking sensors

        • Ragbone

          Because Facebook doesnt add cool features like that, just basic bare minimum.

  • jiink

    Insane. I honestly didn’t think Quest hand tracking would get much better on that hardware. That said, I wonder if the huge latency will improve at all, that’s a big dampener in my opinion.
    Currently those tracked hands move less responsively than when you see your hands in the Passthrough view, and that’s what makes Hand Physics Lab feel like Surgeon Simulator instead of Handworks.

  • Nothing to see here

    Hand tracking is one of those features that once you use it, you never want to go back. Looking forward to when hand tracking will become the default control mode or simply replace the controllers in any game or app.

    • Sven Viking

      That’s not my experience — responsive tactile controls are too important to most games imho — but it’d be great if they were more reliable and more widely supported in appropriate applications and games.

    • XRC

      Hand tracking will become default for non gaming application. May see more specific hardware for gaming (see PSVR aim controller) with improvement in haptic and special features/input

    • Jeremiah Tothenations

      They need to release some kind of hand attachment for haptics though, perhaps rings.

  • Ragbone

    Will this make it easier to pick your nose?

  • Mysterion

    You know what improvement would be really great? Removing the FB requirement as promised last year.

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  • dz11

    I wish they would concentrate on improving something more useful, like PCVR. The Pico Neo 3 Link is much better when it comes to that.

    • chuckdaly

      Meta currently offers no PCVR headset.

  • Alexander Grobe

    Is this OpenXR compatible?

  • Tanya

    I would miss the haptic feedback, so soft gloves with that tactile technology would be ideal in my opinion.

  • I can’t wait to try this on my Quest!