ThinkBoxly is the personal developer blog of Lucas Chasteen, author, programmer, artist, and always learning. Read more

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Nimble Sense, Now Bringing Your Hands into VR

It’s already been a long, hard wait for Oculus’s virtual reality headset to hit the consumer market, but brace yourself, because it’s about to get even harder.

It’s been said in VR circles that Oculus is the first pillar of VR—that being the sense of presence in a virtual space. It’s your eyes and ears, your very head. And while we’ve seen some pretty creative inventions attempting to be the second pillar, it’s been pretty obvious that these are mere iterations along the path to a more practical, more streamlined future.

Well, now Oculus’s slow aptitude to get a product out to market is starting to make a whole lot more sense. Take that as a pun if you will, it wasn’t intended. But another ‘sense’ is precisely what it appears Oculus will be getting integrated right into the headset very soon. The addition comes courtesy of a new startup that took to Kickstarter to promote their first product, the Nimble Sense.

Nimble Sense is a depth-sensing camera capable of creating a field of 3D points similar to how you might make a handprint in one of those pin toys that always fascinate kids. It’s an Xbox Kinect packaged as a portable device. But even more interesting than its function or diminutive form is the Nimble Sense’s openness and priority as a virtual reality device. It was literally created with Oculus in mind, and understandably it got the Facebook-owned company’s attention. Oculus promptly snatched up Nimble in an official acquisition, bringing an early end to their Kickstarter campaign and adding some pretty interesting assets to the company’s already unique roster of talent.

While there’s still not even a rough release date for Oculus VR 1.0, it’s certainly exciting to think it might be shipping with 3D hand-tracking capabilities built right in. Co-founder and CEO Palmer Luckey has been firm in saying there won’t be an Oculus DK3 (Development Kit), but it seems likely that Nimble Sense will hit developers in some form prior to release. The device’s creators themselves built it to coordinate with Oculus DK2, meaning the Sense could ship to developers independently even if the final version is integrated with a headset directly. And as always in the VR world, that term ‘developer’ should be used loosely. There are plenty of enthusiasts out there chomping at the bit for virtual reality hard enough to purchase a non-consumer product even if they lack the ability to program for it themselves. For that group, a brand new pillar of VR may be making its way into people’s hands soon. For everyone else, rest assured that the wait will be more worth it than ever.