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You can now high-five in VR

An update to the Meta Quest VR headset is allowing improved hand gestures, which includes both clapping and high-fiving in VR.

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg has often painted a vision of an immersive metaverse, where people could interact almost as if they would in real life. Meta’s ambitions are one step closer, as the company showed off enhanced hand tracking support for its Quest VR headset. They attempt to provide much more natural motions to make virtual interactions less awkward.

The company detailed the update in a blog post on its Oculus developer page:

“Today, we’re unlocking major improvements to our Hand Tracking API, Presence Platform’s hand tracking capability—including step-change improvements in tracking continuity, gesture support, movement, and performance. This update also allows fast and overlapping hand movements, enables clapping and other hand-over-hand interactions, and opens up nearly endless object manipulation possibilities.”

Meta attributes these improvements to a developing a new machine learning method to better understand hand movements, particularly when the hand is occluded (blocked) or moving quickly. Meta says this opens up the use of the hands for apps that require more robust and complex tracking.

Developers who have already built-in hand tracking using Presence Platform simply need to add a single element in the Android Manifest file <meta-data android:name=”com.oculus.handtracking.version” android:value=”V2.0″/>. This allows devs to use the same API calls as before, but with the added benefit of better performance and tracking. Meanwhile, those using Unity or Unreal Engine will have to wait for further configuration details.

This upgrade could change how interactions are done in a fully virtual space and open up the door to controller-less VR. You’d be able to fully use your hands and fingers as you would in real life (for the most part) and interact with virtual objects and people more naturally.

If anything, this fulfills Microsoft’s original dream for the Kinect peripheral for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. The Kinect was marketed to be “controller-free gaming” and allowed players to move more naturally. It was supposed to be an easier alternative to the Nintendo Wii, which used the motion-controlled Wii-mote for imitating gestures.

This hand tracking update dovetails nicely with rumors that Meta will be releasing a “Quest 2 Pro” later this year. The updated headset will reportedly include upgraded 2160 x 2160 mini-LED displays and facial recognition.

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