Bringing Ping-Pong Paddles & Samurai Swords Into VR

An HTC developer is taking the Vive VR tracking device into unexplored territories. 

Since being made publicly available for developers back in March, the Vive Tracker has seen an incredible amount of use in an extremely short amount of time. The device has been used by amateurs to turn everyday objects into tools for VR resulting in some truly unique, sometimes bizarre, experiences. So when an actual professional gets involved, things are bound to get exciting. Especially when that professional works directly for HTC’s VR division.

In a series of photos and videos uploaded to the official Twitter account of HTC VR Product Manager Shen Ye Wednesday, the intuitive developer showcased a variety of trackable objects for a number of VR experiences:

First, Shen demonstrates a trackable ping-pong paddle by playing a round in the popular title Virtual Sports. While not a massive difference from the feel of a standard Vive controller, the authentic grip of a wooden ping-pong paddle could definitely add to the immersion. He also displays another version of the controller where the tracker is attached to the base of the handle, but unfortunately there’s no video of that model in action. As someone who admittedly becomes a bit too competitive while playing table tennis, I would personally love to see a hyper-realistic virtual reality ping-pong experience that utilizes a perfected version of this type of controller. 

His next and arguably coolest experiment turns two classic samurai swords into trackable katanas for the massively popular fruit-slashing game Fruit Ninja, all without ever changing software. In the video provided, Shen’s test subject can be seen cleanly slicing through waves of nutritious produce with the skilled grace of a professional harvest assassin.

Much like the design for the VR paddle, Shen removed the blades of the swords (probably a good idea) replacing them with trackers that sit atop the extended blade handle. Waving these handles around as opposed to standard Vive controllers adds to the realism of the experience by better simulating the weight and balance of an actual sword. Obviously the lack of a blade significantly changes the dynamic, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction for sword-based titles.

While all of these designs aren’t exactly game-changers, it’s important to note the importance even the smallest details have when it comes to immersing people in VR and simulating an environment. The feel of a solid wood handle, the sensation of slipping on a boxing glove, the weight of a sword’s hilt, these are the little additions that can turn a mediocre virtual reality experience into a captivating one. Seeing an actual HTC employee experiment with such a wide variety of objects makes me confident that the future of VR controllers will be anything but predictable.

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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