Meta Updates: Meta’s new hand-tracking feature

Meta is conducting trials for potential Updates to its Quest VR headsets. It will serve as a fundamental enhancement: the ability to interact with virtual elements solely through hand gestures, without needing any controllers.

New Features Overview:

The purpose of this upgrade is to enable users to perform tasks they are already performing on their smartphones. There are multiple tasks such as scrolling up and down a page, pressing a button to activate it, or typing on an onscreen keyboard, by simply using their fingers in the air.

The new experimental function is called “Direct Touch,”. It’s incorporated in the Quest v50 software update, which is currently being deployed. After waiting for several weeks, the update was eventually available, and I immediately activated it.

When they enable hand tracking, the Quest 2 employs its external-facing cameras to track the movement of your hands. And it will appear as dark hand-like silhouettes in the VR environment. You can utilize these silhouettes to estimate when your hand is about to “touch” a menu or window in front of you. With Direct Touch, once you make “contact,” things will start to scroll or light up. The scrolling motion is not entirely smooth, but it is usually more sensitive than I expected.

Direct Touch’s typing function is not ideal. When you touch a portion of the UI that requires text input, the Quest’s onscreen keyboard appears below the window. After that, you can “press” individual keys to type. However, there is no physical surface to rest your fingers on. It’s difficult to know where you’re typing or what you’re typing. (Imagine the lack of tactile feedback you get from an iPad’s onscreen keyboard, but without the glass.) When I resort to the VR equivalent of hunt-and-peck typing, attempting to write even a single word is often fruitless. UI occasionally registers my intended keypress as a different key altogether. Thankfully, the keyboard does offer word suggestions as you type, which can come in handy.

The Direct Touch controls’ poor typing ability and average scrolling performance make the Quest web browser the most impressive demonstration of the feature. If I make a mistake when typing a web search, the search engine can usually correct it. Scrolling up and down is acceptable, as is tapping on links. Oddly, The Verge’s homepage doesn’t scroll beyond our Top Stories list on the Quest browser for some reason, but tapping any of the six stories I can see works better than I anticipated.

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