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Oculus Quest unwraps hand-tracking updates for its first birthday

Apps and games will start introducing hand-tracking on May 28 and play boundaries can now recognize objects.

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Hand-tracking on the Oculus Quest was first announced last October. We tried it at Facebook's HQ.

James Martin/CNET

Facebook's Oculus Quest, a standalone VR headset, is one year old this week. Headsets are still hard to find in stock and the flow of games and apps for the hardware has been steady and high-quality. Facebook hasn't announced any new version of the Quest yet (or any price drops), but there's one big change rolling out -- many upcoming games and apps will work with your hands without any controllers at all.

The Oculus Quest's hand-tracking technology was revealed last October and became available as an experimental tool at the end of last year, but it's now becoming a real part of the software. Apps and games will be able to incorporate it starting May 28. A handful of upcoming hand-tracking supported games, announced by Facebook on Monday, include Elixir, The Curious Tale of the Stolen Pets and Waltz of the Wizard. The Quest's hand-tracking capabilities, using the onboard headset cameras, works surprisingly well but isn't a full replacement for physical controllers.

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The Oculus Quest's play boundary system, Guardian, is getting an enhancement that will recognize objects in the room, too. It's unclear how that works, but having the Quest be able to warn me of chairs or desks in my office would be a huge help.

Specific Oculus Quest hardware sales numbers haven't been released, but Facebook listed some new sales stats saying the Quest has had over $100 million in software sales since the platform's launch in May last year. Ten games have made over $2 million in revenue -- Facebook lists Moss and Pistol Whip as two of those 10. Superhot VR has sold 2 million copies, Facebook also confirms, but that's across "all VR platforms," not just Quest.

The Oculus Quest is also adding more productivity and communication apps, a missing link so far in the software library. Spatial's free app is coming in the "coming months," along with another collaborative app, Immersed.

The Quest, right now, is already one of the best VR headsets available and can work as a PC headset with a USB-C cable. Hand-tracking and room boundary improvements could help polish it even further and build some tools for a next-gen headset when it's ready.

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