Virtual reality has moved way beyond the early “passive tourist” phase, when it was simply enough to present users with beautiful 360-degree environments they could explore by moving their heads. Today, what everyone is clamoring for — from VR companies to users — is a way of letting people interact with the virtual world using handheld controllers.
This is an increasingly populated area, but one company that’s presenting some promising accessories is Russian startup Finch. With its new Finch Shift tech, the company has created a pair of joysticks that work in association with armband sensors on the upper arm to help track and visualize hand and finger movement in VR — without cameras or cables.
To do this, the controller employs sensors capable of determining real-time position of the user’s hands with sub-centimeter accuracy and a 360-degree tracking range.
“Unlike Daydream-type controllers with few buttons and a directional pointer, [our solution] allows you to do a full range of interactions in VR, and runs on any smartphone with a gyroscope,” creator Alexey Kartashov told Digital Trends.
In terms of compatibility, Shift promises to work with everything from smartphone VR systems like Google Cardboard to Samsung Gear VR, and offers compatability with HTC Vive, Oculus and OSVR headsets. Coupled with some “PC-to-mobile” streaming software, it also wants to make it possible to run existing Steam VR, Oсulus, and HTC Vive apps and games on smartphone virtual reality headsets.
All of this will be done at a significantly cheaper price point than many competitors.
“The key advantage that Shift gives users is immediate access to the huge variety of VR apps already developed for Oculus and HTC Vive,” Kartashov continued. “For less than $200 for a set of Shift controllers and any VR glasses, you could get access to the best VR experience currently available only for HTC or Oculus owners, who paid $400-800 for the headsets, plus $1,500 for an expensive PC to run the headsets.
Finch will be showing off its wares at January’s CES event, after which the plan is to launch a $179 Developer’s Kit including the controllers, SDK/API, three demo games ,and the proprietary streaming software.
A Kickstarter in the second half of 2017 will then aim to bring a version to market for regular folks. By the end of 2017, Kartashov said the ambition is to have “at least 50 mobile VR multiplayer apps” compatible with the platform.