Oculus VR has announced that it has acquired Nimble VR, a two-year-old startup whose claim to fame is a depth-sensing camera that can track the hands' movements and use them as virtual reality (VR) input.
In more ways than one, Nimble VR shares similarities with its new parent company. For one thing, the hand-tracking startup first made waves as an ultra-successful Kickstarter campaign, just like Oculus VR before it was purchased by Facebook for $2 billion earlier this year. In light of Oculus VR's announcement, Nimble VR posted an update on its Kickstarter page saying it is cancelling its campaign, which has raised a total of $135,511 from 1,076 backers.
"Our work started off with color gloves, evolved into markerless tracking with multiple Kinect cameras, and eventually led to this Kickstarter for the Nimble Sense, a 3D camera that could be mounted on an Oculus Rift and bring hands into VR," writes the four-man Nimble VR team. "All of this couldn't have been possible without the support of our partners, our early users and the Nimble VR Team's dedication and hard work."
Both companies have similar stories, and they also have similar goals. Nimble VR's Nimble Sense is a combination of a depth-sensing camera that can be mounted to the Oculus Rift or to a computer monitor to capture a 3D point cloud of the user's hands location and skeletal hand tracking software that interprets the point cloud. The result would be a more immersive experience than what the current VR technology Oculus VR is working on.
For now, the Oculus Rift headset is focused entirely on users' visual perception. Although the latest DevKit 2 for the VR headset has gotten early adopters enthralled, it still lacks in some departments. For instance, one would look down to reach out his hands into the virtual world only to end up seeing nothing.
At this year's Oculus Connect keynote, Oculus VR founder Palmer Luckey said his team was looking for a way to include hands in the game. While there are some current systems in place, such as the 3D motion sensor technology by Leap Motion, they are just too laggy and buggy to be integrated into the Oculus Rift.
"Even if it's working right, if there's any kind of latency it feels like your hand is dead," Luckey said.
"Most of the time when you put somebody, especially a younger child in VR, you really want to see your hands... and really there's nothing there right now," added celebrity game programmer John Carmack and chief technology officer at Oculus VR.
The Nimble VR acquisition, however, could change all of that to bring hands into the VR experience. Now, if only someone could find a way to produce tactile feedback so users don't only see their hands, they can also feel what they are touching.
"Nimble VR was founded in 2012 by Rob Wang, Chris Twigg and Kenrick Kin," writes Oculus VR in a blog post. "Since then, they've been developing machine learning and computer vision capabilities to enhance high-quality, low-latency skeletal hand tracking, which has the potential to be part of a great VR user experience."
Along with Nimble VR, Oculus also acquired 13th Lab, which specializes in creating 3D objects and spaces to enable applications such as visiting a 3D model of the Pyramids of Egypt. The company also hired Chris Bregler, a motion capture specialist known for his work in "The Long Ranger" and "Star Trek into Darkness," where he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
Oculus VR says Nimble VR, 13th Lab and Bregler will be "winding down" their current projects to focus entirely on Oculus Rift.