LOS ANGELES — What’s the best virtual reality input? Some say traditional game controllersare the way to go and Oculus is working on its futuristic Oculus Touch, but the startup Manusthinks wireless gloves are the way to go.
The company showed off a prototype of its wireless VR gloves, which are also called Manus, atE3 in Los Angeles. Mashable had a chance to try them on and see if they’re really the future of VR input.
The developer kit model I tried on consisted of a pair of black gloves with a little black box containing motion sensors for hand movement tracking attached on top of them. Individual fingers are tracked through flexible sensors inside of the gloves. After putting the black gloves on, I also had to slip a yellow and green cover over each glove; Manus reps told me they’re necessary for positional tracking.
All hand and finger tracking is then sent wirelessly through Bluetooth to a VR headset. The software the Manus uses is all open source.
The gloves were all connected to Samsung Gear VR headsets. And as I wrote in my review, the VR headsets tended to overheat in between demos.
The demo I tried was really primitive: A simple game where I had to destroy ball-shaped robots floating all around me.
There were two ways to destroy the ‘bots: 1) Make finger guns with both hands and then shoot, 2) Close my hands into fists and then open them to create lightning explosions to destroy groups of robots.
The controls work, but the tracking is still pretty rough. Like so many VR inputs, there’s noticeable lag between the time you make a gesture to it translating to on-screen action. At one point during my demo, my left glove froze up and I had to recalibrate them. Making lighting explosions with my hands was more responsive, though.
There’s also the issue of fatigue; my arms felt tired after only two minutes or so of shooting things with my fingers and holding my arms in the air.
Still, I can’t help but be excited for virtual reality input. The gloves have potential — using them gave me the same sense of excitement that I felt the when I tried Kinect’s gesture controls for the Xbox 360. Of course, the VR gloves could also end up like the Kinect: underpowered and shunned by developers.
Manus’s VR gloves are up for pre-order on its website for €275 (about $309).