Oculus VR buys hand-tracking expert Nimble VR

Your Oculus Rift virtual reality games are about to get more hands-on, with the company acquiring hand-tracking expert Nimble VR.

Michelle Starr Science editor
Michelle Starr is CNET's science editor, and she hopes to get you as enthralled with the wonders of the universe as she is. When she's not daydreaming about flying through space, she's daydreaming about bats.
Michelle Starr
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The Oculus Rift is designed to put your eyes in a virtual world -- but how you get around and perform actions in that virtual world is still confined to a controller of some kind. The Nimble Sense peripheral for the headset was looking to change that, with a Kickstarter that was gathering momentum -- $135,511 of its $62,500 goal -- until the campaign was cancelled earlier today.

That's because, Oculus VR has announced, it has bought the company that was making the device.

"Nimble VR was founded in 2012 by Rob Wang, Chris Twigg, and Kenrick Kin," the company said. "Since then, they've been developing machine learning and computer vision capabilities to enable high-quality, low-latency skeletal hand tracking, which has the potential to be part of a great VR user experience."

The device in question is a depth-sensing camera with infrared -- like the Kinect, or the Leap Motion controller -- equipped with software specially designed for skeletal hand tracking. This was designed to be mounted onto the top of the Oculus Rift headset, with the cameras angled down at the user's hands for gesture control and manually interacting with 3D objects in a virtual world.

"Our work started off with color gloves, evolved into markerless tracking with multiple Kinect cameras, and eventually led to this Kickstarter for the Nimble Sense, a 3D camera that could be mounted on an Oculus Rift and bring hands into VR. All of this couldn't have been possible without the support of our partners, our early users and the Nimble VR Team's dedication and hard work," the Nimble team wrote in a Kickstarter update announcing the acquisition.

"Today, we're happy to share that we'll be joining forces with Oculus, a team that is creating an entirely new medium, platform and industry. We're excited not only to continue to push at the boundaries of input and user experience in VR, but to do so with the resources and means to make a bigger impact on a larger audience."

This means that the Nimble Sense as it currently exists will not be going ahead; instead, Oculus VR said, the team will be winding down its current project to focus on VR for product engineering and Oculus Research for Oculus VR -- perhaps for motion-tracking that is integrated into the headset rather than attaching separately.

The Oculus Rift is still yet to arrive for consumers, although the dev kit unit is available for order.