Your wrist might be where VR's newest accessories live

HTC Vive's VR wrist tracker is a sign at CES 2022 of where things will go beyond handheld controllers.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

The Vive Wrist Tracker might be a clue as to where VR controllers head this year.


It's big. It's weird. It's curved around the wrist like a mouse that melted onto a watch strap. And maybe HTC's Vive brand has finally hit upon the future of VR controllers.

HTC's product announcements at CES 2022 didn't include any new headsets -- the company released its experimental, phone-connected Vive Flow late last year, and updates to its pro PC and business-targeted standalone headsets earlier in 2021. But to me, the Vive Wrist Tracker is maybe even more interesting.

VR hasn't made any great strides in controllers and inputs since the first wave of headsets back in 2016. Most lean on controllers that feel like split-apart console gamepads, much like the Oculus Quest 2 uses. Those are fine for games, but not so much for anything casual. Also, you have to find and hold those controllers. Hand tracking, which can be controller-free, isn't as precise and lacks physical feedback.


It sort of looks like a strange mouse placed on a watch strap, but it can also be detached and used to track other objects in VR.


The Vive Wrist Tracker has the same type of six-degrees-of-freedom full motion tracking as most VR controllers do. It can also optionally be attached to other objects, much like Vive's dedicated trackers, which have been around for several years. In that sense, they could double as ways to track or add other things into VR.

HTC plans to use the wrist tracker for training situations where hands would be needed to hold or move things, like an existing VR firefighting training program.

Meta is expected to move towards wrist-based trackers for its future smart glasses, and the company formerly known as Facebook is reported to be developing its own watch, which could also link into VR. As headsets get smaller, like the Vive Flow, and maybe designed to wear anywhere, the controllers need to be super portable, too. Blending the tech into wristbands and watches would make the most sense. HTC's Vive Wrist Tracker is entirely business-focused, and it doesn't look that compact. But it may be the path others start taking, too.