The Rift’s missing piece has finally arrived.
It feels like we’ve been talking about Oculus Touch for awhile — and that’s probably because we have. We first got our hands on the Rift Touch hand-controllers during Oculus’ developer conference (OC2) in September 2015. It was a mind-blowing experience that showed the true potential of how simply bringing your hands into VR with ergonomic design can take immersion to an entirely new level.
Then came news of the delay — the disappointing update that Oculus’ Touch launch would not coincide with the Rift launch in March. Instead we would have to wait until the “second-half” of 2016 to get our paws on these beauties.
But throughout 2016, we saw hints of a future where we could put down the Xbox One gamepad and finally bring our hands into VR with the Rift. We saw glimpses of mind-blowing artwork created in Medium by Goro Fujita and battled it out with a friend in Insomniac Games’ spell-casting PVP game The Unspoken developed exclusively for Touch.
Then came the announcement we’d been waiting for. After a year since first demoing the Touch controllers at OC2, Oculus announced at this year’s OC3 that Touch would arrive December 6th for the price of $199. Soon the announcements of new content followed and demos of the Oculus Touch began opening up at local Best Buy retail stores. The Oculus Touch was back, full-steam ahead, with most of the enthusiasm coming from existing Rift owners looking to take their immersion up a few notches.
The day is finally upon us — the Oculus Touch launches tomorrow.
And just like the immersive magic I experienced demoing the Oculus Touch controllers for the first time over a year ago, that same child-like wonder that put a giant smile on my face is back. It turns out it never really went away.
When looking at the Oculus Touch alone, it’s exactly what the Rift has been missing. Although much of the intuitive design of the controller has already been covered, having been out in the wild for a year now, it’s worth reiterating the comfort and beauty of Touch. This is where the Touch really shines. The natural hand position is not obtrusive, letting you grip items by squeezing or point your index finger in VR as if it were magically tracked (it’s not really but seems like it). The Rift needed the Touch and we can’t believe it’s finally here.
When comparing the Rift Touch combo with a VR system like the HTC Vive however, that’s when some challenges start to surface. Motion tracking is handled by two sensors that are placed on a desk in front of you. The short length of the USB 3.0 cables that must run to your PC limits placement. But the biggest downside is that you are only tracked from the front, which means if I turn completely around, facing away from the sensors, I lose tracking for a short second.
But the Touch’s shortcoming when it comes to room-scale tracking compared to the Vive likely balances out due to the Touch’s ease of setup, especially for many first-time VR users. Out of the box, the setup is quite simple, letting you place the additional tracking sensor without ever having to bust out a hammer to mount it on a wall. Sensor angle and placement were quite challenging, it is really never clear according to the Oculus setup tutorial what is an optimal position, but nonetheless, we were up and running within 20 minutes.
Once you’re ready to rock with the newly installed Touch controllers, you’ll be taken to an entire tutorial experience that is worth playing through entirely on its own. And from day-one, you can choose from 53 launch titles to get you started. Everyone has their favorites, but after hours of playtime over the weekend, Toy Box, Dead and Buried, Job Simulator, Robo Recall, Medium, Kingspray Graffiti, and The Unspoken were titles I constantly kept gravitating back towards.
The Rift is just a headset. Like the high-powered HTC Vive and PlayStation VR headset, each one has their own unique character traits that make one more comfortable or better tracked over the other. But, the Oculus Rift was always lacking the one thing that the Vive and PSVR possessed — the ability interact with virtual elements using your hands.
It really is night and day when it comes to immersion. When you’re using a gamepad to navigate a virtual world, it just feels like a game with a much larger screen. But when you bring your hands into VR, intuitively reaching out to grab a tool or paint brushstrokes in the air, the virtual world becomes your reality.
It’s a feeling that’s hard to describe — and if you haven’t tried it yourself, then do everything you can to experience this next level of immersion. You’ll soon realize, how in the world have you been Rifting without Touch in the first place?
This is how VR is meant to be experienced.