Last week Samsung announced that they would be revealing their ‘rink’ hand-motion controllers designed for the Gear VR headset at CES this week.
The company teased us with a few photos, stating that the Rink would give users the “ability to intuitively control the game or content just by using their hands.” The hype and speculation surrounding the Rink’s technology reached new levels, with the VR community looking forward to a deeper level of Gear VR immersion.
So of course we scouted all of CES to track down Samsung’s latest Rink system. It couldn’t be found alongside the massive Samsung Gear VR booth and virtual “rollercoaster ride” experience, which we will cover later. Instead it was tucked away off-site, mixed in with other incubated and accelerated startups showing off their latest tech in 3D-printing, gadgets, and VR.
The Rink hand-motion controller is the latest project coming out of Samsung’s R&D program called Creative Lab or C-Lab for short. It is Samsung’s in-house incubator of new ideas and experiments. And from what we can tell from our hands-on demo, this is still very much an experiment.
Speaking with engineers working on the Rink project, they agreed this was indeed a prototype and have been feverishly working over the past two months to get the Rink in a place that could be shown to the public. Much like many of the projects coming out of Samsung’s C-Lab, Rink has the potential to become an actual consumer product in the future, but was told no discussions around that have even started.
When demoing the Rink system with Gear VR, the first thing you will notice is the pretty slick design of both the base unit attached to the top of the headset and the hand controllers. With clean lines and soothing indicator lights that informed the engineer of sync status, Rink definitely looked like a consumer ready product.
The base unit tracks the hand controllers through magnetic signals, which the Rink system has a range of about arm’s length. So whenever my hand-tracking was lost in virtual reality, which it sometimes did, I was asked to bring my hands within inches of the base unit to re-sync.
Another great surprise when demoing was finding out the hand controllers had finger tracking as well. These u-shaped controllers slid comfortably across the palm of my hands and were able to pick up finger movement through infrared light emitted. So remember that photo Samsung teased us with where the girl is wearing Rink hand controllers and typing on a virtual keyboard, yeah that was just supposed to show the feature of finger tracking.
Rink was a pleasant surprise to demo. Although there were a few bugs with tracking and some latency, knowing I was wearing a mobile VR headset made this an exciting promise. Yes this was indeed a prototype, but Rink is a step in the right direction to a portable cable-free virtual reality experience where you can just reach out and touch something.