Stijn-StumpelI had a chance to try out the Manus VR hand-tracked controller on the expo floor of GDC this year, and saw that there a couple of really strong use cases for having your hands and fingers tracked in VR. You can be a lot more expressive within Social VR, and in mixed reality experiences where passive haptic feedback is available, then having your hands tracked can actually increase the level of embodied presence.

I had a chance to catch up with the lead designer of Manus VR, Stijn Stumpel, at GDC where we compared Manus VR to Leap Motion, talked about how the flex sensors work, the use cases where having tracked hands makes sense, their extremely polished demo called Pillow’s Willow, and where they’re going in the future.

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At GDC, Manus VR strapped an HTC Vive controller to the back of my wrist, and it gave a lot more consistent tracking of the location of my hands as a result. I didn’t have to worry about keeping my hands within my field of view like I do with optically tracked solutions like Leap Motion. There was some uncanniness in not being able to actually physically grab objects, which can break presence. And I also experienced a lot more than 20ms of latency in my finger movements, which was a presence breaker. But I was told that they are able to achieve much better latency performance in their lab environment.

Manus VR just announced in a press release that their “gloves are being used in experiments to train NASA astronauts in mixed reality to prepare them for the International Space Station.” Here’s some footage of some of that training that they’ve released.

They also announced that Manus VR is joining the first SteamVR Tracking class being taught by Synapse on September 12th in order to create a version of their glove that has the SteamVR Tracking sensors built in. So I expect to see the next iteration remove the stopgap solution of attaching a SteamVR controller onto the back of your arm. With the increased amount of tracking on the arm, then they might also start to be able to do a lot more accurate inverse kinematic tracking of your body and be able to have a powerful invocation of the virtual body ownership illusion.

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Music: Fatality & Summer Trip

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