The controllers are our hands in VR, and their designs are only getting cooler. A comfortable and intuitive controller that tracks well can be a huge game-changer, and will guide the way you allow your users to interact with your virtual environments.
The best virtual reality controller today is the Valve Index’s controller. They look completely different from any other controllers that have been designed, and they use a far more superior technology. You no longer have to grip and hold the controllers during the VR experience – instead, an elastic band wraps around your palm, allowing you to open and close your fists without dropping the controller.
They also work better than other controllers in terms of tracking. So good that they even track the proximity of your fingers – allowing you to point, thumbs up of high five.
Can You Mix and Match Controllers from Different VR Headsets?
Unfortunately, no – in most situations, you can’t mix and match controllers. Currently, the way the tracking systems are designed in the way that the headsets track where the controllers are relative to the headset and not relative to the desktop – so controllers cannot typically be tracked by themselves.
But this isn’t the case if you are using base stations.
The Valve Index controllers track position and movement using the lighthouse system, which uses vive base stations. If your headset uses the same base stations, they will be compatible. Here is a list of virtual reality headsets that are compatible with the lighthouse system:
- HTC Vive Pro
- HTC Vive Cosmos
In the future, we are hoping that there are independent tracking systems for headsets and for controllers, which would allow users to purchase the best designs of each brand and allow developers to collaborate with different hardware for different uses.
How Do VR Controllers Work?
So, if you’re willing to get a bit technical here – headsets, as well as controllers, use infrared LED signals to determine the velocity and time. And once you have the velocity and time, you can determine the displacement. This displacement is constantly tracked and communicated to the hardware the headsets are using – and, there you have it – tracking. This is one way that tracking is read, and it’s called ‘dead reckoning’.
Why Do VR Controllers Have a Ring?
Most controllers, unlike the Valve Index controller, are made up of joysticks, buttons, and triggers all placed ergonomically on a handheld unit. Most controllers have a ring that spans around the user’s fingers. These rings use infrared LEDs to track the movement and position of the user’s fingers and give feedback to the PC that translates this information into the 3D environment.