The next challenge for VR devs is to fix our damn jittery hands

There's lots of new VR hotness on the horizon! Valve is getting directly into the game with its very own headset, the Index, a play for the best VR headset crown, while Oculus has a new Rift S and the wireless Quest arriving later this month. For those players wanting to step into an immersive gaming experience by tightly strapping a computer to their faces, there are about to be lots of exciting new options to choose from.

But as VR wizards add more features, remove more cables, increase visual fidelity, and make controllers more versatile, there's still an issue that needs to be addressed: while we're standing there in VR our hands look like they're shaking and trembling like traumatized rabbits. It's really hard to fully escape into 360 degrees of computer simulated fantasy when every time you look at your hands they're jittering like jumping beans after a double espresso.

When I first started using VR, I thought maybe I was the problem. "Why are my hands so shaky when I see them in VR?" I wondered. I hated to upload captured footage of me playing something in VR because on-screen my hands were quaking with an intensity that suggested I was slowly reaching out to turn a doorknob in a horror movie. I was afraid anyone seeing it would think I was so weak I couldn't hold a couple of hollow plastic controllers without being on the verge of collapse.

But it's not just me, and I know that because even in official trailers for VR games, you can see the shaky hands effect. Above, that's a clip from the official Fallout 4 VR trailer. At the top of this post, that's Espire 1. Below, there's a clip from the Boneworks trailer. There are shaky VR hands in all of them.

Granted, when it comes to physical fitness I am essentially a blob of uncooked bread dough, and coordination-wise it's a good day if I don't slosh coffee on myself or accidentally drop my phone on my dog while trying to take his picture. But my hands are reasonably stable, and even if they do shake a bit I can't think of a good reason to amplify it in the VR space.

Obviously, while holding our hands up there's going to be a tiny bit of movement because we're not statues. Maybe it's compounded by minute movements of our headsets while we're looking at our VR hands, too. But the translation of these movements in VR is pretty ridiculous. I'm pointing a BFG at a monster, not recovering from falling through the ice of a frozen lake.

It's great that VR is making advances. Taking away cables: good. Increasing resolution: great. Making headsets lighter and controllers more tactile: excellent! But can we assign a few VR scientists to work on the shaky hands problem, too? When I'm hefting a gun or picking up an object or flying a spaceship it would be nice to look at my hands and see the smooth, steady movements of a hero instead of a guy who spent his $100 Starbucks gift certificate all at once.

Christopher Livingston
Senior Editor

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.