Oculus hires the brains behind VR's most promising hand-tracking tech

Oculus Nimble Tech

Oculus VR's latest virtual reality prototype Crescent Bay is so immersive, it's disconcerting to raise your hand in front of your face and not see it rendered in the digital world. Cracking the problem of VR controls is one of Oculus' biggest remaining challenges, so it's not too surprising to see Oculus scoop up Nimble VR, a startup that's been working on hand tracking for the Oculus Rift.

Nimble has been working on hand tracking with 3D camera technology (think Kinect) since 2012, and today they ended an already-funded Kickstarter campaign to join the team at Oculus. Oculus VR also hired 13th Lab, a team "focused on developing an efficient and accurate real-time 3D reconstruction framework" for modeling real-world locations. Cities, the Egyptian pyramids, etc.

Nimble's hiring will likely affect Oculus hardware, while 13th Lab's hiring will more likely affect software, like the video games Oculus is developing in-house, or virtual tourism applications that create 3D models of real environments. Both are exciting, but we're especially interested to see whether Nimble's 3D depth camera is integrated into the eventual Oculus consumer model.

Nimble's Kickstarter was for a new camera the company developed called the Nimble Sense. Nimble developed the camera after working on software for existing 3D cameras, including the Kinect. Their camera offered a 110 degree field of view for capturing hand movements. Check out the prototype in their Kickstarter video. It's impressive stuff.

The video shows a couple gameplay demos, like cutting and re-fusing alarm wires by hand and a simpler demo of manipulating and rolling dice. Nimble also has a gameplay demo that lets the player blast lightning out of their hands to zap enemies.

Those demos show the potential Nimble has for simple game interactions. Latency, which is 20 ms according to GI.biz, doesn't look like much of a problem. It's hard to spot in the video below.

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).