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Article by: Imran

Publishing Date: 7th March 2022

Introduction

In the world of virtual reality, hand tracking allows the user to interact with the virtual world without the use of controller devices and instead use a virtual representation of their physical hands within the virtual world. This allows for more immersion and “realism” within the virtual world. 

In the real world your hands are not bound to controller devices as you interact with the real world, and this allows for a lot of freedom for your hands. The current and further developments of hand tracking within virtual reality will allow for a similar level of freedom and realism when it comes to interactions in the virtual world.

Developments in VR Hand Tracking:

Hand tracking in virtual reality has come a long way since one of the first developments in hand tracking in 1982. This hand tracking was achieved using Sayre gloves, which are wired gloves. These gloves achieved hand tracking by using light emitters that hit the photocells in different ways depending on the finger movements of the wired gloves, these photocells would then convert these movements into electrical signals [1].

One of the many current developments in VR hand tracking allows for hands-free hand tracking without controllers or gloves. One of the ways this is achieved is through the combined effort of VR hand tracking hardware, VR tracking software, and VR tracking tools and applications. 

The tracking hardware uses sensors that are built into the virtual reality headset that collect hand data like positions, rotations, and movements of your hands. The VR tracking software and engine will then process the gathered data (positions, rotations, and movements of the hands) to generate a pair of hands within the virtual world that are a representation of your pair of hands in the real world.

When the real hands have been tracked and a pair of virtual hands have been created within the virtual world, the virtual reality applications and tools will then use the virtual hands to allow for interactions in the virtual world using hand gestures that are similar to the interactions that real hands will have in the real world. 

The user will be able to grab a specific object the same way you would grab it in the real world, for example grabbing a cup by its handle in the virtual world like you would in the real world. The user could poke, touch, and scroll specific objects in the virtual world similar to how you poke and scroll on the screen of a smartphone, or press on the keys of a keyboard with your fingers, and touch a button [2].

Conclusion

Virtual reality and hand tracking in virtual reality has clearly come a long way since the 1980s, we went from wired gloves using photocells that sent electrical signals as a way to track hand movements towards having a virtual reality headset with the tracking sensors built into the headset that allowed for tracking of the positions, rotations and movements of the hands and creating virtual representation of these hands in the virtual world. This then allowed for virtual hand tracking and interactions that are similar to the hand interactions, we have in the real world without mostly needing controllers or wired gloves.

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