Monday March 13, 2017

Leap Motion’s New 180-degree Hand-tracking is a Perfect Fit for Mobile VR

Qualcomm has added Leap Motion's 180-degree hand tracking module to their new mobile VR headset that's currently in development. Qualcomm is developing the self contained platform for use as the base hardware for many mobile phone manufacturers. They also have made it clear that the Leap Motion module is going to ship with the device for those that want the hand tracking tech. The headset is a technical marvel with an inside out VR experience. As in conventional VR headsets, there is a 2560x1440p screen for each eye inside the headset. On the outside, there are twin 1280x800 front facing cameras. This is key to positional tracking as there aren't sensors setup around a room for a mobile device.

Leap Motion supplies the hand tracking hardware because mobile users don't have access to VR controllers with their phones. On the desktop, Leap Motion is having a hard time gaining traction as VR controllers ship with the devices. But with mobile where the users typically don't carry controllers, the Leap Motion module adds richness and creates a proper VR experience. The new Leap Motion tracking accomplishes this with a 180-degree view which adds to the immersion. The first Qualcomm VR headsets are due for launch in 2017, but it is unknown at this time if they will include the Leap Motion tech.

The new mobile module as seen at GDC 2017 hugs closely to the Snapdragon 835 VRDK and was clearly made to fit the device specifically. With two wide-angle lenses, Leap Motion says the module provides a 180 degree field of view for hand-tracking. Indeed, I could feel a significnat difference between the new module and the old one. With the headset on and my hands out in front of me, I could grab objects and let them out of my own field of view through the headset, and when I looked down I could see that I was still holding the object.

The increased tracking field of view is bolstered by smart tweaks to the hand-tracking software; such that if I was holding an object and then turned my head (causing the object to truly leave the tracking module’s field of view) the software would remember that I was holding that object (and in which hand) once it came back into view, and often identify my hand holding the object before it came back into the headset’s own field of view, making a big improvement from the compelling-but-frustrating experience of the original desktop module.