Oculus announced today that hand-tracking on Quest will start rolling out sometime this week with basic functionality. A hand-tracking SDK will be made available next week, giving developers the ability to create third-party applications which use the new feature.

Oculus announced earlier this year that hand-tracking was heading to Quest, though initially they didn’t expect the feature to launch until early 2020. They’ve accelerated that schedule—apparently to get the initial release out the door in time for the holidays—which means that hand-tracking is headed to Quest headsets starting this week with the release of v12 software.

Enable Oculus Quest Hand-tracking

Updates roll out to headsets over the course of a few days; Quest will automatically update when it can (make sure it’s plugged in and in standby), though you may be able to catch the update a bit early by putting on the headset and heading to Settings > See All > About and looking for an update button (it will not appear if the update is not yet available to your headset). Once you’re able to download the v12 update, access the Experimental Features menu to enable Oculus Quest hand-tracking.

With hand-tracking enabled, you’ll see floating cursors near your hands which correspond to a floating pointer on the Quests menus. A pinching gesture is used as a ‘click’ for button presses, or a ‘click and hold’ for dragging scrollable areas.

Quest Hand-tracking Game & App Compatibility and SDK

Oculus is calling this an “early consumer feature” and notes that the initial release will allow users to enable hand-tracking as an experimental option, enabling them to control Quest’s home menu interface and a small number of first-party apps like Oculus Browser and Oculus TV. This will likely expand to more first-party apps over time.

Hand-tracking will not work with third-party games and applications unless they are specifically updated for the feature; Oculus plans to release the hand-tracking SDK, which will allow developers to tap into the feature, on December 16th.

Because of the significant difference between hands and controllers with regards to input precision and capabilities, most existing Quest games built for controllers aren’t likely to get updated to work with hand-tracking. For instance, we don’t expect a game like Moss updated for hand-tracking (because of its heavy use of the controller’s sticks and buttons), but a more casual app like Bigscreen would be better aligned with the capabilities of hand-tracking.

Hands-on: Quest Hand-tracking Will be Great for Casual Input, But Core Games Will Still Rely on Controllers

In the future Quest will likely see a new class of casual apps which are specifically designed around the ease-of-use of hand-tracking, while more heavily interactive game-focused apps will continue to make use of controllers.

Indeed, in today’s announcement Oculus said it hopes the feature will “make VR more approachable for newcomers to try by removing the need to learn controller functions.” The company expects hand-tracking to enhance and enable new use-cases on Quest, including “more expressive gestures in social apps to more efficient workflows in business training modules, and more.”

Update (December 9th, 11:05AM PT): Oculus reached out to clarify that Quest’s experimental hand-tracking feature will start rolling out some day this week but not necessarily today. A prior version of this article stated that the update would begin rolling out today; this has been corrected above.

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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."
  • MosBen

    Quest tracks the controllers with infrared dots on the controllers, right? Could hand tracking become more precise with gloves with infrafred trackers on them? Or what about, say, a stick with infrared lights that could stand in for a light saber in Vader Immortal? Or other custom inputs for various games. Maybe the infrared lights could come on adhesive strips that you could put on a mundane object to turn it into a controller?

    • asdf

      it for sure could

    • • Right, LEDs actually.
      • Technically yes, but I don’t expect Oculus’s own software to be developed in this direction.
      • By all means, but again, we shouldn’t expect Oculus to go this way, since their goal is to reduce the friction caused by any kind of controller accessory. However, in PCVR development, sky is the limit — remember that before there was Oculus Quest, there was Leap Motion, check out the docs on their approach: https://developer-archive.leapmotion.com/documentation/csharp/devguide/Leap_Images.html

      • kuhpunkt

        But you can’t not have controllers. Hand-tracking is a nice feature, but playing games without haptic feedback is garbage. A gun with no trigger? Garbage. Beat Saber without knowing/feeling that you hit the cubes? Garbage. No weight in your hands? Garbage.

        • Eric Draven

          Agreed. I bought the first gen of Oculus, the one with no touch controllers, and decided to try out the LeapMotion gadget… it was cool, but then I realize I was unable to walk around in games like AltSpace with just hand tracking.
          when I finally got my touch controllers, I felt the difference between cool and amazing. haptic feedback takes it to a new level

    • benz145

      Technically, yes, but the hand-tracking algorithms aren’t built to detect dots, so they’d need to fundamentally rebuild the system to account for that use case. They couldn’t merely adapt the controller tracking system either since it can assume that the LED are in a precisely known/rigid arrangement, whereas with hands they’d move relative to each other.

    • Pablo C

      The software can track change in position because there are some fixed geometries, like the relative position of the dots in the control. The dots in your globe would permanently change their relative position, so there is quite a challenge there.

      • MosBen

        But couldn’t there be a function where the Quest would scan a device, asking the user to turn it over a bunch of times so that it understood where the LEDs were to extrapolate the shape?

        In the write-ups about the new Snapdragon it mentioned that it supported better camera vision, so maybe that’s something that could help with creating custom controllers?

        • SecretPanda

          Hi MosBen – along the lines of your comments, I run a startup working on a mountable tracking device that can be used to turn everyday objects into mixed reality controllers (search Invoke AR). This concept is really interesting from an MR/AR perspective as it allows interactions and overlays with real objects, but the VR use case isn’t so strong.

          As you can’t directly see objects in your physical environment in VR, it tends to be more hassle than it’s worth to track equipment other than the standard controllers because the users’ disbelief is suspended anyway (this is part of the reason the Vive Trackers pucks haven’t taken off as a popular input device). i.e. is beat saber in VR really going to feel any better if you were using intricately modeled lightsaber handles compared to the standard controller?

          Another consideration is the geometry of the IR markers – not all configurations provide the same tracking performance. This is a big part of our work and also the existing optimisation that’s gone into “constellation” based VR controllers like that used in the Quest’s Insight tracking system.

          • MosBen

            Fair enough, and if it’s more trouble than it’s worth, then that answers that. But while I’d agree that an intricately modeled light saber controller likely wouldn’t make a big difference, something that felt more like a stick/handle than the Touch controllers might. But even more, things like fishing controllers, or other game-specific controllers might have greater impacts. But as you point out, it might simply not be practical, which is a bummer, but makes sense.

    • Eric Nevala

      Quest tracks controllers with a combination of computer vision and IMU. Yes, hand tracking is much better with reflector dots on a glove and multiple cameras, but who is going to buy gloves, let alone wear them any time they want to use VR? That just adds new barriers for entry and fragments the market. The quest hand tracking works based on computer vision, machine learning, and some other secret sauce, making gloves unnecessary and interactions seamless, just the way it should be :)

      • Zantetsu

        If gloves are what it takes to get very very good hand tracking, then I would wear gloves. I’ve used Leap Motion and seen the glory of well tracked hands and the despair of poorly tracked hands. I would wear any glove if that’s what it took to get to 99% reliability.

  • Jimmy Ray

    Can’t wait to try it out.

  • Pablo C

    All sport games can and should be updated to be compatible with this.

    • aasdfa

      idk, if youre holding a stick of any type id rather just hold the controller then hold a fist or half fist out. other interactions though will be great.

      Like volyball and basketball would be better without a controller while baseball/cricket/tennis/golf would be nice with anything to hold on to

      • kuhpunkt

        Baseball and golf without something in your hands? Because that’s so great for immersion ;)

        And especially baseball and golf where the thing is out of the field of view of the cameras so that it can’t be tracked?

      • Pablo C

        Yeah, I also prefer to hold my lightsaber. But Boxing would be perfect.

  • Uncle Right

    If you are 18+, then google “StripChat VR” :-) Let’s spread out what VR can be used for.

  • Uncle Right

    [18+] “StripChat VR”- google it. You need free GizmoVR Player and type stripchat.com in browser address there.

  • blue5peed

    This is going to be amazing when you just want to watch a movie without having to grope around for where you left your controller every time you want to interact with a menu. You can finally just sit back and forget about where you left your controller for once and enjoy your show.

    • Smokey_the_Bear

      I agree, nice improvement for watching porn TV shows.

  • Lloyd Sturdy

    All that purple spray coming from the headset is going to make a terrible mess!!

    • benz145

      Spray-based tracking! Only needs a refill once per week with regular use.

  • doug

    What is the extra latency over a traditional wireless tracked controller?

  • JesuSaveSouls

    I got the last update fairly quickly.Hope this comes this week but if next thats still sooner than next year.

  • I can’t wait to try it! I hoped to update yesterday, but my Quest couldn’t update…damn :(

  • wade garner

    does anyone know anything about “Sochier” the company selling Oculas Quest on Facebook?