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Here's What the Company Oculus Just Bought Can Do

Oculus' latest acquisition tracks your hands in VR.
July 16, 2015, 3:00pm
Photo: Dodvere Levperl/YouTube

Oculus and its parent company Facebook today announced that they've acquired Pebbles Interfaces, a small Israeli company that develops 3D gesture tracking hardware and software.

"Pebbles Interfaces has spent the past five years developing technology that uses custom optics, sensor systems and algorithms to detect and track hand movement," Oculus said in a statement. "Over time, technology breakthroughs in sensors will unlock new human interaction methods in VR and revolutionize the way people communicate in virtual worlds."

If you watch the short video demonstrating what Pebbles Interfaces' tech can do, it's not hard to see why Oculus bought the company. With latency, display, and head-tracking issues out of the way (or at least as good as they're going to get right now), the next big problem for virtual reality is input methods. How are we going to interface with these virtual worlds?

If you've ever tried one of the new virtual reality headsets, you'd know that there's a natural instinct to reach out and touch whatever's in front of you, even if it's not really there. Pebbles Interfaces tech looks like it will basically allow you to do just that.

"Through micro-optics and computer vision, we hope to improve the information that can be extracted from optical sensors, which will help take virtual reality to the next level," the company's CTO Nadav Grossinger said. "We've always believed visual computing will be the next major platform in our lifetime, and we're excited to join the Oculus team to achieve that vision for the future."

Last month, Oculus unveiled its own motion tracking controllers called Oculus Touch, which tracks hand movement movement, much like Valve's motion controls for the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, but with finger tracking as well.

With Oculus launching in the first quarter of 2016, it seems unlikely that today's acquisition will impact the first consumer model of the Oculus Rift, but it'll be interesting to see how it uses the tech in the future. Something with a button is always going to make the most sense for most video games, so Pebbles Interfaces tech could be used to improve the Oculus Touch, or set up a whole new input method catering to the more social aspects of virtual reality Mark Zuckerberg keeps talking about.