The current crop of VR systems out there now, including the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive, require users to hold special motion-tracked controllers to interact with a virtual world, but that serves to take away from the experience and the suspension of disbelief.

What researchers at Microsoft are working on is using cheap sensors, like the Xbox Kinect sensor (which never really panned out for gaming but has become an amazing research tool) and readily accessible computers to track the precise movements of a user’s hands and fingers. Using the depth data captured by a Kinect, custom software is able to track a series of points on a human’s hand, and use that data to recreate that appendage in the virtual world so that it can effectively interact with other virtual objects.


It doesn’t sound particularly exciting at this point and time, but this research is essential to realizing future software interfaces like those seen in movies like Minority Report. Who hasn’t fantasized about dramatically swiping their way through their morning emails with exaggerated hand gestures, instead of having to tap away on their laptop’s trackpad?