When you don a virtual reality headset, it blocks out the real world. You no longer see your body. But what if there were a way you could see your hands through the headset, and use them in virtual reality? Oculus just bought a company that might have the technology.
Pebbles Interfaces is an Israeli company that specializes in computer vision, using cameras and specialized software to track objects as they move around. And in fact, they’ve already demonstrated that technology with an Oculus Rift VR headset. Here’s a video:
What’s remarkable about this footage isn’t that you can see the hands and their position in 3D space, but how well the software can track them as the fingers move, interlock, and cross in front of each other. Typically, a depth camera like Microsoft’s Kinect or an Intel RealSense has trouble if something it’s tracking is blocked by something else. Though it’s probably worth noting that Leap Motion has shown off similar tech.
If the camera can’t actually see something, how does it know where it is? I can’t say for sure, but that magic is likely why Oculus snapped up Pebbles for a reported $60 million.
Now, says Oculus, Pebbles “will be joining the hardware engineering and computer vision teams at Oculus to help advance virtual reality, tracking, and human-computer interactions.” They’re hoping that Pebbles will help “unlock new human interaction methods in VR and revolutionize the way people communicate in virtual worlds.”
In other words, what they’re building is futuristic, still in the R&D stage, and possibly a long ways off. In the shorter term, the way Oculus plans to get your hands into virtual reality—sorta—is with this awesome controller.
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