The Valve Index might have the most fun VR controllers I’ve ever tried

The valve index is supposed to be virtual reality without paying attention to expenses. The recently announced handset costs $ 999, more than double the price of competing Oculus and HTC devices. That price tag gives you access to several premium features: high-quality hearing aids, an experimental super-fast refresh rate and a wider field of vision "for typical users". But all these updates are effective. If you are looking for something completely new, the most exciting part of the Index could be your entry system.

The valve has sent some units of the Index to the reporters for a preview. Updates are still being implemented before launch next month, so it's too early for full revisions. But that's fine right now, because seriously let's talk about those controllers.


the valve index might have the most fun vr controllers ive ever tried

The Index uses the "Knuckles" design that Valve has been mocking for several years. Somehow, they look a lot like their HTC Vive and Oculus Rift counterparts, with a wide plastic strip, a joystick, a small trackpad, a pair of front buttons and a secondary input that can be compressed. But instead of having to hold them constantly, you must tie the plastic "hilt" against your palms. And instead of just measuring touches and presses, each one uses 87 sensors to capture pressure, movement, touch and optical data.

The belt configuration of the controllers does not work It does not necessarily seem more convenient than other design styles, since it is quite easy to keep your hands around any light controller . But it gives the index a much more detailed interactivity than its average virtual reality system. With the HTC Vive, you can move your hands and press a trigger or press a side button to indicate that you point or close your fingers. Oculus Touch controllers have capacitive sensors, so when the system does not detect your thumb or forefinger, guess who has extended them.

The Index, on the other hand, can determine when each finger extends individually. It can indicate when they are snuggled loosely around the handle without actually touching it, when the controller is held normally and when it is pressed harder. In a demo section of Portal called Aperture Hand Labs you must demonstrate a firm handshake with a robust executive robot. Another "test" makes you play rock, paper, scissors with a cheating robot. (The bot won.)


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Shaking someone's hand with the Index does not really feels like a handshake, obviously. But it is exciting to have a new range of control options that reflect the body's natural movements. And the system works, although imperfectly.

The Index seems to assign specific regions of the controller to specific fingers. While it reliably detects my thumb and forefinger, it sometimes does things like confuse my little finger with my ring finger unless I consciously keep my hands in the right place. This could be temporary: the padded straps of the controllers make it easier to adjust their position and angle, and over time, I could get comfortable. But getting the "scissors" gesture required concentration, although I would not hold the Index for my loss in Aperture Hand Labs .

The Index is making many conjectures with this system, and could get more accurate results with something like a VR CyberGlove. But there are no conventional VR glove controllers, perhaps because they have many really serious deficiencies. The gloves are difficult to adjust; often sweaty and uncomfortable; and if they are made of cloth, they tend to become dirt traps. Adjustable Index straps wrap around my little hands and leave most of the skin exposed. They are almost always comforting, like holding a couple of stones of concern. Conversely, outdated buttons and joysticks offer a more reliable entry than you would get with a hands-free tracking system completely out of control.


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It is very disappointing that these drivers are exclusive to SteamVR, mainly the Index, although you can also buy The pieces for the HTC Vive. The Index is a niche, an expensive device in a category that is already a niche, expensive, and the creation of game mechanics around its brilliant and advanced hand tracking would mean sacrificing access to a large part of the market of reality virtual.

And without those mechanics, the Index could be one more variation of today's standard VR hardware design. The hands of your avatar could move more realistically in the Index, but that would provide a mostly aesthetic update, not a new way of interacting with the world. For now, several games (including the well-known Vacation Simulator and Arizona Sunshine ) support index drivers. But of the titles I've played so far, only Aperture Hand Labs sponsored by Valve feels really built around them.

Valve is supposed to be developing three main virtual reality games, including an iconic title like this year. These projects present great opportunities to experiment with what the Index is capable of, and the results may be so exciting that they will help create a new style of VR interaction. For now, I still have a month and many tests until the official launch, so I hope to try more virtual handshakes, closed fists and punctures in the fingers before launch.


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