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VR: Controllers vs Hand Tracking vs Eye Tracking: what’s the difference and why it matters

Hello Fourcher Tech Family,

This month we are putting a heavy focus on our VR technologies as we develop our own programs and equip our VR program for the future. The biggest roadblock to the adoption of any technology is usually its interface, or how easy it is to use. VR is no exception, and 3 main ways of interfacing have come about in the past 2 decades of consumer VR.

Controllers, hand tracking, and eye tracking


VR Controllers

Controllers have been the de facto choice for VR for the last decade. The reasons are mostly technical, as high-quality eye and hand tracking did not exist yet for consumers. Now that those other technologies are common, why did controllers stick around? Controllers allow for high-fidelity tracking in a variety of conditions and for augmented control options within a VR world. This means that the system knows exactly where your hands are in 3D space at all times, even in a dark room, and you can press buttons to have more interactions with the VR space. For this reason, controllers are included in the box of every major VR product (with the exception of the Apple Vision Pro, but we will get to that). Our experience at Fourcher Tech is that controllers are very difficult for seniors to learn and use. There are many reasons for why this is, but it comes down to an overload of choices, as each controller has at least 7 buttons each. For this reason, we tend to opt for the next technology on our list: hand tracking.

Hand tracking:

VR Hand tracking

Hand tracking is by far our favorite method for seniors to interact with the virtual world. Because there are fewer controls and nothing new to learn, seniors pick up how to use hand tracking in under 5 minutes and become experts in 10. Hand tracking works by using cameras on the outside of the headset and scanning your hands to put them in the virtual world in real-time. The only downsides are that the tracking struggles in the dark and that the fidelity is not as precise as a controller (for now). The upside is that it is incredibly intuitive to use! When you don’t need hyper-precise tracking and a million controls, hand tracking is the way to go. But what if I told you another technology is even easier to use, so easy that all you have to do is look at what you want. This technology is called eye tracking.

Eye Tracking:

VR Eye Tracking

Eye tracking uses sensors within the headset to determine what you are looking at. It’s that simple (although the engineering of these systems is mind-bogglingly complex). Once the headset knows what you are looking at, it can select what you are looking at and you can interact with it. Occam’s razor shines true for this one. As mentioned earlier, Apple will not be making controllers for its upcoming Apple Vision Pro headset. They are using eye tracking and hand tracking to control the entire device. We at Fourcher Tech believe that this is the correct path forward for VR, and the best choice for the industry to make in terms of seniors.

Why this all matters:

We do not want seniors getting left behind technologically, especially because they stand to benefit the most from technology. Bad memory? Ask Siri to remember it. Can’t read the small print? Zoom it in with your iPhone. Take a bad fall? Your Apple Watch has already automatically called 911. As VR is set to take a larger part of the consumer electronics market, we predict that VR/AR/XR headsets will become as ubiquitous as iPads. For seniors to benefit, companies like ours have to create senior-focused VR products and teach them how to use them. That is why we care about interface methods, and why we are excited for the future of VR!

If you would like to be part of our journey to create VR products, reach out and we would love the help!

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