XImmerse wants to make your GearVR experience hands-on

Samsung’s GearVR is affordable, intuitive, and immersive — but it’s also limited. The $100 headset is designed to work with a smartphone, and smartphone owners don’t have any external input, be it a gamepad, a keyboard, or mouse. That forces apps to rely on the user’s gaze, and a touchpad on the headset’s flank.

But what if owners didn’t have to rely on such simple control? What if they could access touch controls similar Oculus Touch, or HTC’s Vive? Ximmerse has built exactly that.

Granting this almost magical feature to a headset not originally built for it isn’t easy. To accomplish this feat, Ximmerse has built two devices, the X-Hawk and the X-Cobra. The former is a positional camera that can be placed on the front of a headset, and plugged in through USB. The latter is a pair of sculpted controllers designed to be held vertically. Each has a light bubble, which is tracked by the X-Hawk to discover each X-Cobra controller’s position in 3D space. Each controller also has a rotational tracker.

It’s a system that’s reminiscent of the PlayStation Move, though it operates on a smaller scale, and doesn’t include an RGB light — white’s the only color. Move’s color supposedly made it easier for the Move’s camera to track the controller’s orb, but Ximmerse says its system doesn’t need it, and that the X-Hawk can track the controllers no matter the lighting situation. Given how harsh the lights on the CES show floor are, that claim isn’t hard to believe.

Unfortunately, the Ximmerse system was let down by its demo. Reminiscent of Oculus’ Toybox, the demo placed me in a gray space with a variety of colored blocks and a few more complex objects, like a rubber mallet. The graphics were rudimentary, to say the least, and there wasn’t any interaction aside from picking up objects, releasing them, and knocking them about.

That made it difficult to assess just how well the controllers work. From what I could tell, the position tracking was great. My ghostly hands kept up with the movement of my real mitts. Interacting with objects, though, wasn’t as accurate. I often found myself unable to grasp objects that looked within my reach. Again, it’s hard to say if this was a problem with the controllers, or with the wonky demo.

The Ximmerse system was let down by its demo.

The hardware itself left a similarly mixed impression. I found the controllers comfortable, and while the triggers felt a little light, Ximmerse says the design wasn’t finalized. The camera, on the other hand, was bare electronics — though the case shouldn’t change anything about how it functions.

Ximmerse is also working on another device, called the X-Swift, that’s designed to be worn on a user’s chest. It tracks body movement, so a gamer can lean around cover in a shooter, or move by leaning forward or back. It wasn’t operational at CES, though, so we can’t comment on how well it works.

Interestingly, while the GearVR was used for demos, Ximmerse says it hopes to sell its sensors for a wide variety of headsets. The X-Hawk can connect to any headset with USB input, and its other peripherals are wireless. Users might choose it to augment a Rift, or OSVR, as easily as a GearVR.

Of course, that means software support will be the bottleneck. It’s hard for a small company building add-on devices to gain enough developer goodwill to see widespread adoption. Pricing might help. While not finalized, the company told me the X-Hawk and X-Cobra should cost around $150 together when they arrive sometime mid-year. A price for the X-Swift is TBA.

I came away from Ximmerse impressed that the company had managed to build a motion-control system that’s accurate and hardware agnostic. While I’ve used motion controls for Oculus and Vive, I’ve not encountered one that will work with mobile hardware. It could make headsets lacking native controllers far more immersive, if the company can find a way to get app and game developers on board.


  • Hardware agnostic
  • Accurate tracking
  • Affordable


  • Final hardware remains a mystery
  • Lackluster demo software

From the road to your wrist, see how Android has evolved over the past 10 years

Android started out as just a mobile operating system, but 10 years in it's pretty much everywhere. Check out our round-up of all the different Android variations that have cropped up so far, and what might be coming in the future.

Hololens 2 could give the Always Connected PC a new, ‘aggressive’ form

Microsoft is said to be leaning on Qualcomm to power its Hololens 2 headset. Instead of Intel CPUs, the next Hololens could use a Snapdragon 850 processor, allowing it to benefit from the always-connected features.
Product Review

It's not the sharpest tool, but the Surface Go does it all for $400

Microsoft has launched the $400 Surface Go to take on both the iPad and Chromebooks, all without compromising its core focus on productivity. Does it work as both a tablet and a PC?
Digital Trends Live

Digital Trends Live: First 5G phone, Batcole Foundation, and a new data breach

Tuesday on Digital Trends Live, Greg Nibler discussed trending topics such as the Quora data breach, and Jeremy Kaplan was joined by Katie Linendoll from the Batcole Foundation to discuss the benefits of AR and VR in hospital rooms.
Emerging Tech

Here’s all the best gear and gadgetry you can snag for $100 or less

A $100 bill can get you further than you might think -- so long as you know where to look. Check out our picks for the best tech under $100, whether you're in the market for headphones or a virtual-reality headset.

Oculus VR could upgrade the Rift with a new display in 2019

Oculus could be set to release a new version of its Rift headset in 2019, but it will be more of a modest upgrade than a true sequel. The Rift S, as its purportedly called, will have a new display, and inside-out tracking.

Google awarded patent for using eye tracking to detect expressions in VR

Google was awarded a patent that involves using eye tracking to infer facial expressions using machine learning in virtual reality. The tech could help make virtual reality a whole lot more immersive than it already is.

Immerse yourself in a new universe with these incredible PSVR games

The PSVR has surpassed expectations and along with it comes an incredible catalog of games. There's plenty of amazing experiences to be had so we've put together a list of the best PSVR games available today.
Virtual Reality

Prototype Valve VR headset leaked: HTC Vive challenger confirmed?

Leaked images revealed that a Valve VR headset is in development, even amid Valve's partnership with HTC for the HTC Vive. Sources confirmed the device, which may be bundled with a Half-Life VR game.
Virtual Reality

Is the Vive Pro better than the original Vive? Our answer might surprise you

HTC Vive vs. Vive Pro, which comes out on top? That's the subject of our latest comparison, which looks at everything from tracking solutions, to controllers, and the brand new headset that could set a new standard for VR.

The best HTC Vive games available today

So you’re considering an HTC Vive, but don't know which games to get? Our list of 25 of the best HTC Vive games will help you out, whether you're into rhythm-based gaming, interstellar dogfights, or something else entirely.

A Google patent shows a way to make VR even more immersive

Virtual reality can be a really immersive experience, but it does sometimes it does have boundaries. Google has addressed this problem by patenting shoes with a flexible region on the bottom.
Virtual Reality

Think virtual reality is just for games? These awesome apps will change your mind

Virtual reality isn't all about gaming. Swim with turtles, paint in 3D, and immerse yourself in some unique experiences the platform has to offer with our curated list of the best VR apps.

Dive head first into the best experiences available now on the Oculus Rift

The Oculus Rift brought back virtual reality and put a modern twist to it. Grab your Touch Controllers, put on your VR headset, and jump into the fun with some of the best Oculus Rift games available now.