Performance

We know that Oculus’ IR LED-based ‘Constellation’ tracking technology works great for the headset, but how does it translate to motion controllers?

When it comes to tracking fidelity, very well it turns out. Within the tracked area, I was essentially unable to move my hands humanly fast enough to get any dropped tracking.

Oculus recommends three different camera setups, all optimized for different purposes. The first (2-camera Front Facing) is the one you’ll probably see the most often, because most developers are likely to target it. Oculus still considers the other two “experimental”.

vive-and-oculus-roomscale-comparison2-camera Front Facing

Oculus expects that for most people it’ll be relatively easy for them to place two Sensors on their desk a few feet apart, and that seems to be why they are pushing this as the default recommendation. With two cameras in front, this setup is aimed at front-facing experiences that make use of a roughly 180-degree area in front of you.

I was surprised to find that with just two Sensors I was able to completely fill the ‘roomscale’ space that Oculus recommends when using three cameras. Of course, with both cameras in the front, I won’t be able to turn around without losing tracking on the controllers, but it’s still a spacious area to move around and it’ll give you a lot more breathing room in experiences like Super Hot and Quill than the 360 setup.

2-camera 360 Tracking (configuration guide)

In order to facilitate 360 degree tracking, Oculus asks you to move the cameras into the corner of your space, but they don’t suggest putting them very far apart. Although you get 360 tracking with this setup, you lose pretty much lose the ability to step in any direction before running into the Guardian boundary. This is only a 5 x 5 square, and I was surprised how small it felt when I traced the boundary right around it.

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3-camera ‘Roomscale’ Tracking (configuration guide)

If you want the biggest recommended space of 8.2 x 8.2 ft and 360 (which Oculus calls ‘roomscale’), you’ll need to pick up a third Sensor ($79 from Oculus) and place it in one of the two rear corners of your space. We showed in the video above that you can hit the same size space with the 2-camera Front Facing, so adding the third camera doesn’t seem to be about adding more space, it’s just to allow 360 tracking and further prevent occlusion of the controllers.

Depending on your PC, you may run into USB bandwidth issues when using the 3-camera setup; Oculus recommends plugging two of the Sensors into USB 3.0 ports and the third Sensor into a USB 2.0 port to try to distribute the throughput across more than one USB bus. Even then, you might find that Oculus Setup isn’t thrilled with the capabilities of your USB ports, and you might need to fiddle with plugging your headset and Sensors into different USB ports until you find out what the system can handle. Fortunately, Oculus runs a test every time you plug in a Sensor (during setup) to tell you if everything is good or if one of your Sensors if having tracking issues.

4-camera Tracking

Oculus Home supports four Sensors simultaneously, but the company hasn’t offered up any specific 4-camera layouts. We didn’t specifically test a 4-camera layout, but from our tests of the other setups, it isn’t entirely clear that adding a fourth camera means a larger space, it may simply mean a more reliable space. It’s likely that more people will run into USB bandwidth issues with four Sensors as well.

Pushing the Boundaries

Oculus’ recommended sizes with each of these setups is pretty much guaranteed to work really well, but for those hoping they can fudge the boundaries, there’s not a whole lot of room. The tracking drop off comes quickly once you leave these recommended spaces. The problem seems to be largely with the face-on tracking performance of the controller, which has poor range compared to holding the cutlass edge-on (so that the band is facing the cameras), which allows you go much further before losing tracking. Unfortunately, with the controller’s primary orientation being face-on, the edge-on tracking performance is an infrequent best-case scenario. It feels like a missed opportunity; Oculus could have presumably made the cutlass shape a full dome and achieved a much larger practical tracking volume.

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Hand Presence?

Presence (as I often write it with a capital P), is something special and specific; it’s different than the colloquial “immersion”, it’s a deep state of subconscious immersion that is achieved when certain minimum thresholds are met. It’s generally agreed that both Rift and Vive headsets can create Presence.

Throughout Touch’s lengthy pre-launch marketing, Oculus has maintained that the controllers are capable of producing “Hand Presence” which they’ve occasionally defined as ‘the feeling that your virtual hands are your own’. The company has subtly pushed this idea of Hand Presence as a differentiator to the Vive controllers. Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe recently revived the concept in the days leading up to the Touch Launch.

At Oculus Connect in October, some of the employees who built Touch claimed that Hand Presence was ‘only something that Touch can provide’. When I asked them what Hand Presence was and what specifically they mean when they say that only Touch can provide it, they declined to be more specific.

So for Oculus to claim that Touch has Hand Presence, and allude that Vive’s controllers do not, means they think Touch passes some threshold that convinces your subconscious that your virtual hands are your own—some threshold that Vive controllers simply don’t meet.

So does Touch have Hand Presence? Yes. But does only Touch have hand Presence? Well, without a specific definition beyond ‘the feeling that your virtual hands are your own’, I would say no. In my usage, Vive’s controllers are perfectly capable of making you feel like your virtual hands are your own in VR. Touch might be a major step forward in VR controller ergonomics over the current Vive controllers, but is there a significant experiential difference between the two that puts Touch uniquely into a new class of ‘Hand Presence controller’? Not really. Touch is an easy choice from a design and ergonomics standpoint, but feels no more usable for VR motion input than Vive’s controllers, even if it feels nicer to use in many ways.

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Finger-sensing Buttons & Gestures

Oculus obviously doesn’t want to get specific about Hand Presence, but their claim might be about the controller’s touch-sensing abilities. The controller isn’t called Touch just because it lets you touch virtual worlds, it’s also because it can sense where you’re touching it. Every input on the controller is capacitive, meaning it knows when you’re touching (but not pressing) the A button, for instance, or when you have your finger on the thumbstick. You can also do a few simple gestures like pointing and thumbs up by some combination of press inputs and actual hand movements (a thumbs up, for instance, involves squeezing the hand trigger and then putting your actual thumb up in the air).

This allows your virtual hand to match the position of your actual hand on the controller fairly carefully, and while from one static pose to the next it might look convincingly like your hand, there’s something snappy and robotic about how the fingers move from one pose to the next in response to your own. You’ll often find people looking down at their hands and watching as they move their fingers around to see how the virtual hands react—sort of the opposite of Hand Presence. Eventually you’ll stop looking at your hands and start playing games with them.

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  • Tom

    Damn it, Ben! Can’t you proofread your articles at least once?! Always so many typos and this article is is no exception. It’s hard to believe you are the Executive Editor.
    I like the writing but invest a few minutes to proofread the text otherwise you loose credibility.Thanks.

    • Matt R

      ” is is no exception” ……Really!

      • Varmintbaby

        I know right.. lol. If that’s not the pot calling the kettle black I don’t know what is….

        • Asaku

          Tom isn’t an Executive Editor…

          No offence intended.

        • Tom

          My mistake doesn’t invalidate my point that Ben’s articles are riddled with typos. And I don’t call myself an Executive editor of a “news publication”…

    • Mark Batcheler

      I’m not 100% confident saying this as I’m not sure if this is different outside of the UK (for example), however, shouldn’t “loose” be “lose”?

      • Hawk1290

        0 for 2, You’re correct Mark. Tom you’re losing credibility! ;)

    • wowgivemeabreak

      loose credibility. Yeah, too bad he doesn’t have tight credibility

    • benz145

      Hey Tom, everyone is susceptible to typos in their own work, even if they proofread it (it’s a quirk of the human brain that you tend to overlook the same errors you made the first time while proofreading). This was fully proofread by two people, but errors still get through. I’ll do another pass after having averted my eyes for a few hours now and probably catch a few more. Thanks for letting us know though.

      • Zerofool

        Ben (and the rest of the editors), I can recommend a neat approach that greatly helps in this – text-to-speech software. You can catch such mind-trick-y cases. The speech synthesis tech has come a long way and some of the voices sound really human-like, almost indistinguishable (22kHz ones). I’m not giving names to avoid being accused of promoting a certain product, but give some of them a try, you won’t regret it ;)

        • The ones I tried all sound a bit dodgy, can you recommend any?

          • Zerofool

            Sure, but only because you asked :). For the last 8+ years I’ve been using “Daniel” from ScanSoft/Nuance at +3 speed setting (it’s too slow otherwise). Haven’t found a better sounding one (to my taste) so far.

          • Thanks. Will take a look. It is actually for somebody I know with failing sight but does not like the robotic voices of computers. Worth a shot to look at :)

          • Zerofool

            Sure, you’re welcome. There’s an online demo for trying the voices out. Daniel is in the British English category. But feel free to try other ones as well. After all, it’s a matter of taste.

            http://www.nuance.com/landing-pages/playground/Vocalizer_Demo2/vocalizer_modal.html?demo=true

      • Tom

        I see what you are saying. Brain sure can play tricks. I even made some errors in my initial comment. :)
        I sure do appreciate what you are doing. It’s just that your articles don’t deserve having those blemishes that you leave in them. :)
        (English is my second language so please excuse any more errors from my side ;)

    • perfectlyreasonabletoo

      “otherwise you loose credibility”

      “loose”

    • Harry Cox

  • Matt R

    A very informative and honest review. I look forward to trying my Touch controllers out tomorrow.

  • Mysticeti

    > it should be noted that this Sensor has the same length cable as the one that comes with the Rift

    Which is how long?

    • Tom

      if a quick search online proves accurate 2.5m (or 8.2ft). Admittedly I’m too lazy to measure mine even though it’s sitting right next to me.

      • Mysticeti

        Thanks man. All my searches ended up at people talking about USB extension cables, not the actual sensor cable itself.

  • Get Schwifty!

    “I was surprised to find that with just two Sensors I was able to completely fill the ‘roomscale’ space that Oculus recommends when using three cameras.”

    I’m not in the least, devs have been doing this for months on end, and in large enough spaces to easily qualify as “room scale” even with just two cameras with good tracking. Not too surprised really that adding the fourth camera doesn’t extend distance, but it’s there for additional tracking accuracy more than anything. Any tracking system is going to devolve quickly at it’s limit, so that is not too surprising.

    I find the comments that there is no real difference with the Touch controllers vs. Vive to be a bit hard to buy and seems to assuage the fears of the Vive contingent, it’s perhaps one of the few reviews (formal and not) who haven’t felt the Touch controllers are significantly more ergonomic and immersive than the wands. I suspect this comes from using the wands long enough that you just get used to them and look past their weaknesses but that is my opinion. If there was no real difference in use then I highly doubt HTC would go to the effort to rework their design. Just seeing something more resembling a “hand” than a raptor-like wand is nice as well.

    So in the final analysis, it comes down to a better ergonomic Touch controller with less room-scale size by a couple of feet ultimately between the two systems at this point in time. What will be ultimately interesting is whatever reviews say good or bad, the public now will have access and we’ll know how things really shake out.

    Ben, when can we expect a fourth camera test?

    • Get Derp!

      “I was surprised to find that with just two Sensors I was able to
      completely fill the ‘roomscale’ space that Oculus recommends when using
      three cameras.”

      It means that additional cameras are for tracking accuracy not tracking volume. At least that’s the dev’s intention.

      • Get Schwifty!

        I got that, just saying two cameras for room scale is known to work well, a 3rd well placed camera should only enhance tracking capability.

    • wowgivemeabreak

      I took his comment to mean the Touch controllers are much more ergonomic and natural but the performance with things like tracking isn’t much different and that seems logical to me.

    • benz145

      Touch IS significantly more ergonomic, wonderful to use, and as I said, is a “much preferred over the Vive’s wand design.”

      Presence (as I often write it with a capital P), is something special, it’s different than “immersion”, it’s a deep state of subconscious immersion that is achieved when certain minimum thresholds are achieved. Oculus knows this well (http://www.roadtovr.com/oculus-shares-5-key-ingredients-for-presence-in-virtual-reality/). It’s generally agreed that both Rift and Vive can create Presence.

      So for them to claim that Touch has “Hand Presence” and allude that Vive’s controllers do not, means they think Touch passes some threshold that convinces your subconscious that your virtual hands are your own—some threshold that Vive controllers simply don’t pass. This I have not found to be true, even if Touch has a huge lead in ergonomic and functional design. Both controllers work well for motion tracked VR input, and even if Touch has a lead, as I said, “…is there a significant experiential difference between the two that puts Touch into some new class? Not really. Touch is an easy choice from a design and ergonomics standpoint, but feels no more usable for VR motion input than Vive’s controllers.”

      Thanks for asking this actually, it reminded me that not everyone would be familiar with the backstory of Presence and what it means in the context of VR — I’ve added some of this comment to the review for clarity.

      • Get Schwifty!

        Thanks for fleshing it out; I understood where you were coming from, and I suspect this quality of “hand presence” is somewhat subjective and I would be the first to admit is something of a marketing ploy to a degree. I would _think_ that a better ergonomic design would lead to a greater sense of “hand presence” but if that is not the case, that is disappointing somewhat but I suspect will come down to the user, as some folks may be more sensitive to the difference in sensation of holding a wand vs. the Touch.

        Still want to know if we can get a 4th sensor test ;)

        EDIT: I wonder if the quality of “hand presence” might in large part depend upon software that is designed using the Touch from the ground up… but I would think the test software you used would be. I suspected there might be a difference between say Vive-controller based titles vs. those designed with Touch from the start, but it sounds like you’re saying it didn’t seem that different.

        • ummm…

          as a vive owner id hazard to say there is a bit more hand presence with the touch, at least in most experiences. so, with that said, im happy about the new vive controllers under development. enjoy the touch bud!

          • Get Schwifty!

            Thanks mate !

  • Mysticeti

    “The default setup that Oculus recommends consists of two Sensors spaced 3-6 feet apart directly in front of you.”

    Does the setup complain if the Sensors are placed further apart? Say 9 feet?

    • benz145

      Good question. It will complain but generally you can skip ahead anyway and set up the Sensors as you’d like.

      • Mysticeti

        Thanks!

    • Jona Adams

      Yes it does.

  • wowgivemeabreak

    Thanks for the review and I am giddy to get my controllers. I got my Rift recently and haven’t used it much but I think it is great and have thought how awesome it should be with motion controllers so here’s hoping the reality lives up to what I think it should be like.

    I also look forward to the day we have high res displays and wireless headsets with inside out tracking. The res right now is decent but it just makes me really want a future high res display with much less pixel grid being visible for the increased immersion.

    The wired aspect is one reason why I don’t care too much about room scale even though I like the concept. I have an 8×9 foot space in my room and have walked around a bit using the Rift and I just don’t care much for having to deal with a cord hanging from my head since I find it to be a bit annoying and I keep thinking I will get too far away and it will be yanked out. I also have a slight concern while walking around I may be getting close to hitting something. I realize there is now going to be a system to show your boundaries but that might not change how my mind works and I can’t just shut off that cautious awareness part of my brain. Hopefully more moving around the area and getting used to my surroundings will lessen that issue for me.

    I’d really like that treadmill like tech to advance (forget the name of the product) and work well as that would be something I’d want to use in vr as the idea of being able to run around is very appealing.

  • perfectlyreasonabletoo

    They’re certainly elegant and lightweight but as wii and vive owners will attest, durability is also very important. That outer ring looks terribly flimsy.

    • Jona Adams

      Flimsy? No, it’s quite rigid.

    • DM

      The outer ring is solid, doesn’t even creak or flex when you try to flex it. It’s very well made and completely sturdy.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    Thanks Ben! don’t mind them your article are well written!! can’t wait to receive my touch and compared them to my vive’s controller!!