Oculus rolled out hand-tracking on Oculus Quest last week as an experimental feature, but the company says it’s waiting on feedback before it commits to bringing the capability to its latest PC headset, the Rift S.

Though the company has assured its PC VR users on several occasions that they remain a top priority, the bulk of Facebook’s attention lately seems to be on its standalone headset, Oculus Quest. Since its launch earlier this year, the device been improving with regular software updates, like improved passthrough capabilities and Oculus Link which turns Quest into a PC VR headset too.

And now Oculus has rolled out controller-free hand-tracking as an experimental feature on Quest. Though early, it’s a rather significant new capability—opening up new and improved use-cases for VR apps which could be more natural or convenient to control without picking up controllers—and one which Oculus seems keen to bring to full release.

Oculus Quest Hand-tracking Starts Rolling Out This Week, Developer SDK Next Week

Considering the importance of this new input capability, it’s somewhat surprising that Oculus not only didn’t bring the same feature to Rift S at the same time, but the company isn’t even ready to commit to doing so eventually.

“We started [hand-tracking] with the Quest platform first and we’re going to listen to the feedback from Quest as we roll out this feature, and will evaluate the technical challenges of bringing it to other devices [like Rift S],” an Oculus spokesperson tells Road to VR.

If Oculus only had the resources to build hand-tracking for one of its headsets at a time, starting with Quest makes sense; its focus on ease-of-use and extremely quick ‘time to play’ makes it better suited than Rift S for casual applications (like media viewing, web browsing, and social VR) and it’s those casual applications which hand-tracking is best suited for.

Still, as the company appeared to finally be moving toward a more cohesive ecosystem, it’s strange to see that Oculus isn’t signaling a clear desire to maintain ‘input-parity’ between its latest headsets; though games still need to be heavily optimized to run on Quest’s low-end hardware, it’s the first untethered headset from Oculus to support the same 6DOF tracking as its PC counterpart, meaning it can play the same kind of high-end VR games which require advanced tracking—a boon for developers trying to find success in a fragmented space.

With handtracking on Quest but not Rift S, developers are right back to juggling very different input modalities (a cumbersome design challenge), or biting the bullet and putting all of their eggs in the Quest basket (if they seek to build an app uniquely suited to hand-tracking).

PC Tethering on Quest is a Huge Upgrade, Making Rift S a Tough Sell

At least as far as what users are asking for, there seems to be real demand for hand-tracking on Rift S too. According to the official Oculus Rift S feedback page, “Optical handtracking for Rift S” is the leading suggestion with more than 1,700 user votes. Submitted at the end of September, back when Quest hand-tracking was first revealed, the suggestion reads:

‘Please make sure that—alongside Quest—Rift S will also get optical hand tracking. Parity between the headsets should be a high priority. Currently there’s no clear commitment either way and Rift S users shouldn’t be left out if there’s not a serious, technical reason.

Hopefully Rift S will eventually get the same hand-tracking feature, thereby broadening the addressable market of developers who want to focus on VR apps designed around hand-tracking.

Unfortunately there’s an additional wrinkle to consider: hand-tracking would not likely come to Oculus’ first-generation Rift CV1 because it uses older, external sensors which would likely be more challenging for hand-tracking (both Quest and Rift S use on-board sensors for tracking). Though the Rift CV1 has been discontinued and will one day be phased out entirely, developers hoping to create hand-tracking applications for Quest and Rift S would need to consider how many Rift CV1 users wouldn’t be included; Oculus too would need to adapt its store to tell Rift CV1 users that their headset isn’t compatible with apps that require hand-tracking.

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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."
  • Immersive Computing

    Hand tracking is a paradigm shift for XR input. I’ve been lucky to use a number of hand tracking system including what was Leap Motion (now ultraleap?) and Microsoft Hololens.

    Very cool to see this coming to Quest and potentially Rift S. Removing tracked motion controllers in favour of your own hands for non gaming applications will surely become the preferred mode of user interaction. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cea1b9380fb182226c9ddfec73ef062d11c7ddc370f8c8f05cea72713448fb0a.jpg

    • Francesco Fazio

      Well I see a unique but big issue with that if you think about it. What about haptic force feedback ? I mean holding a rifle or a gun in VR without a controller using just your hands and shooting without ffb would ruin the immersion and make it totally unrealistic I am afraid. The best is hand tracking and real ffb haptic gloves. Sadly the market isnt ready for it meaning all haptic gloves currently available are nothing but an alpha basically for developers and not for end users. On top of it despite working bad they are also very expensive for no apparent reason.

      • Immersive Computing

        Sorry, did you read my comment properly?

        “Very cool to see this coming to Quest and potentially Rift S. Removing tracked motion controllers in favour of your own hands for non gaming applications will surely become the preferred mode of user interaction”

        non-gaming applications….

        • Francesco Fazio

          Sorry my apologies. I totally missed the part where you said “non-gaming applications” ! Hands tracking is a great thing for professional applications but the lack of ffb makes it unfit for most gaming apps.

  • Rupert Jung

    It’s a remarkable achievement to get this running on a mobile SOC. But IHMO it’s not really useable at this state. Latency is far to high (feels like a mouse pointer on a slow TV without game mod) and the detection rate of the ‘click’ gesture is about 7/10 for me ATM. Hope this can get improved with future updates.

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  • Totius

    “If Oculus only had the resources to build hand-tracking for one of its headsets at a time, starting with Quest makes sense..” I don’t believe it. They could implement it on the Rift tomorrow.. It’s surely only because of some strange marketing decisions, which I do not understand.. like closing Netflix to Quest..

  • Nejham Mosquera

    The fact that they are releasing this feature to the headsets means that they’ll have a lot of data to perfect the tracking for their AR glasses. Having thousands of users giving feedback plus the data they are recording will help to speed that up a lot.

  • Net Shaman

    If this feature is ok, we need next some pair of simple haptic gloves with electric skin stimulation powered by a pair of batteries via bluetooth.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    I think the real reason might be that the Rift S is just a Oculus branded Lenovo developed headset whereas the Quest is a real Oculus headset. And technically the headsets are really different, the soc the quest is using might already have some extra support for stuff like that, whereas the Rift has to do it on the PC itself with special libraries which might need licensing etc..

  • stan ley

    I see more interest in this feature on the rift s than on the quest Imagine dcs with hand recognition to switch things on and off naturally in your cockpit. Or changing the settings in your race car with the actual switches of the car model ..

    • david vincent

      Yeah you can already do it in a few sims with Leap Motion :
      But if Rift S can do it natively, this headset will became a must have for all simmers (they are already liking it a lot).

  • Rogue Transfer

    The article needs updating some inaccuracies – Oculus is no longer a company. Since last year, there is only Facebook Technologies Ltd. See the bottom of http://www.oculus.com and https://uploadvr.com/oculus-division-facebook-technologies/

    Hand-tracking was developed by the Facebook AR/VR division, which includes former Oculus team members(the last of the original founders left Facebook this year). Oculus is now just one of the services provided by Facebook, from their Facebook Technologies company.

    • Justos

      Oculus is still a company in their own right, and they are moving outside of fb HQ next year. You can call them facebook if you want, but they are Oculus.

  • Jimmy Ray

    Just wish it was your finger doing the action like when you text on a phone. Hope they bring the demo out soon. Was it called Elixir?