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Oculus Touch Review

The Oculus Touch has arrived and in doing so it answers one of the biggest criticisms of the Rift – how to interact with the virtual worlds it can create. Is this enough of an answer to justify a purchase? Let’s crack on with our Oculus Touch review and find out…

Oculus continues to lead the pack on packaging.

Hardware

Unboxing the Oculus Touch is a satisfying experience, although it doesn’t reach the heights of the Rift which came in a beautiful overall package. Included are the two Touch controllers and an additional sensor. That’s right – if you thought that finding enough plugs for the Rift was hard before, things just got worse.

Even months into testing the Oculus Rift and Touch I am still getting warnings from Windows about driver problems with the sensors. This doesn’t seem to affect performance, and doing some research it seem to be a motherboard issue relating to different specifications of USB 3.0. I don’t think it’s a problem as much as an irritation and a reminder that the Rift is going to push most home computer setups to their limits.

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That’s a lot of plugs.

Each Touch controller takes one AA battery. The battery covers are magnetised, meaning that when the cover is replaced it snaps into place. It’s a very cool piece of design.

The controllers themselves fit nicely into the palm of your hand, and are held in place by a simple wrist strap. The wrist strap isn’t uncomfortable, but it is quite thin and feels a little cheap and I would have preferred something closer to the strap on the wiimote.

Once everything is plugged in the setup procedure is very straightforward – you hold one controller to your front and then directly in front of you. After this you are pretty much ready to get going. One optional feature is setting up the new Guardian system. This sets out a safe perimeter to your play space, and if you approach an edge whilst in VR you will see a blue grid pop up to alert you. Set up is a breeze – you simply trace around the edge of your play area whilst squeezing one of the touch triggers. Once in VR I found that the system would trigger a little early, and draw me out of the experience, but this could be more to do with the relatively small size of my living room.

Using the Touch controllers is an absolute pleasure and I found the shape of the controller completely intuitive. Your palm and three fingers hold the controller with a button under your middle finger that is used to mimic grasping. There is a trigger under each index finger which is quite light to squeeze, similar to the Xbox One controller. Your thumbs rest on the face of the controllers, which each have a thumbstick, two buttons (A,B,X,Y) and a start and Oculus button. There is also a thumb ‘rest’ are on each of the faces.

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Well designed, but note the flimsy wrist strap.

Performance

Boot up Oculus home with the Touch controllers for the first time and you will look down to find a pair of hands. The tracking is absolutely spot on – adding a second sensor has clearly helped with the accuracy of tracking and I noticed improvements to tracking the headset and the distance I could stand form the sensors. The Touch controllers are cleverly designed to mimic your hands. The button under your middle finger controls your middle, ring and little fingers, whilst the trigger controls your index finger and the face your thumb. I will bet money that anyone trying these out for the first time will immediately cycle through making a fist, pointing, gun shape and thumbs up. It’s a satisfying experience and it works well to make you feel like your virtual hands are legitimately connected to your real ones.


Your virtual hands can be customised by developers, so load up Robo Recall and you’ll find the ghostly Oculus hands replaced by a set of robotic terminator hands. Likewise load up Dead and Buried and look down at your gnarled hands. I’d love to see this concept taken further – replacing your hands with other game specific appendages like wings or tools for example. I also think there’s a great opportunity for Oculus to allow people to customise their own hands. The default ghostly hands are very generic and inoffensive, but I imagine there are people who would prefer to customise them – for example male and female hands and skin tones to represent different ethnicities. Alternatively you could include the option to add jewellery, tattoos, watches or similar.


One of the most interesting aspects of the Touch controllers is that every button is touch sensitive. This means that pulling the triggers will curl up you virtual fingers, but just lightly resting your finger on the trigger will do the same thing. Likewise resting your thumb on any button on the face, or even the thumb rest area will pull your virtual thumb into your hand. Whilst this makes sense on some occasions at other times it means picking objects up doesn’t require enough effort. Also I noticed that some people would hold the controller incorrectly or struggle to figure out which finger should be pushing which button. These same people would then seem to struggle to squeeze or relax just their middle finger, making the Touch controllers look incredibly awkward.

I will write further reviews about how the Touch controllers perform in game, but rest assured that the answer is very well. The tracking is nearly always excellent, only losing contact when the sensor loses line of sight. The buttons and thumbsticks are all well designed and well placed, and overall a joy to use. The battery life is also excellent. My only disappointment is that the Touch controllers don’t seem to provide an automatic alternative to the X1 controller, as I was hoping to just jump straight into games and use them as an alternative controller, but this is a minor complaint in what is an otherwise impressive package.

Overall

If you have already invested in the Rift and the rig to run it, you should take the plunge and invest in the Touch controllers. They complete the experience and improve upon ever aspect of the Rift – tracking, immersion and enjoyment. This is of course dependent upon the arrival of software for the controllers, but as a piece of technology they deliver exactly as promised.

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