Oculus Touch lets you bring your hands into VR, and it's wonderful

You already know looking through a VR headset is supposed to be amazing, especially as nausea-inducing stuff (like latency drops) and ooh-ahh-inducing stuff (like resolution) climbs. But how can Oculus Rift possibly make motion control cool again, as it's trying to do with its newly revealed Touch controllers? The answer is: with great care, advanced technology, and pyrotechnics.

If you're not familiar, the "Half-Moon" Touch prototypes look like a DualShock controller ripped in halves, with each piece smashed through a big plastic bangle. But what they really look like doesn't matter, because in virtual reality, they're your hands. Ok, maybe not your hands (unless you're a blue wireframe), but they correspond so well to your motion and gestures that you'll quickly adopt them as your own.

It turns out that bringing a pair of hands with you into virtual reality spaces makes a really big difference in how 'there' you feel, as I found in a demo session hosted by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey. My very first movement with the Touch controllers brought them exactly where I'd expect them to be, two wireframe fists ready to wreak havoc on the simple polygonal playroom standing before myself and Luckey. Over the next ten or twenty minutes we headbutted tetherballs, fired shrink rays, and lit sparklers together, just a pair of disembodied heads and hands surrounded by suspiciously fragile objects. And it was wonderful.

Being tricked into believing you're in another world (more charitably called the feeling of "presence") is unique to virtual reality. But there's a big difference between feeling like you're the omniscient, insubstantial overseer to a game like Lucky's Tale, or even the perpetually-seated pilot of an EVE: Valkyrie ship, and feeling like you're actually able to interact with a virtual world almost as naturally as you do with the real one.

To be clear, no one action with Oculus Touch was ever completely intuitive. I wasn't actually using natural gestures to interact with the virtual world, I was cycling through a set of finger positions that corresponded to more natural poses. But the metaphor worked. Aside from a few glitches here and there, and minus four fingers worth of digital precision (the Touch controllers can detect your thumbs, index, and middle fingers, and the rest are fudged based on your middle fingers), I was in virtual reality, and my hands were, too.

Perhaps the best endorsement of the Touch controllers was how utterly captivating it was simply to flick open a Zippo lighter, watch the flame, then flick it closed. Maybe this makes me sound like a bit of a pyromaniac, but I always get a little thrill from seeing a fancy lighter in action. I got the exact same thrill from watching through a pair of high-res screens and holding a little black handle. Using said Zippo to hastily light a dozen firecrackers, and watching them burst and pinwheel around a destructible environment with no concern for my own safety, was just gravy.

I'm still not planning to buy an Oculus (bundled with Xbox One controller) as soon as they ship in the first quarter of 2016, mostly because I don't want want to pay early adopter costs for still-developing technology. But when the Touch controllers release in the first half of 2016, those… those I may have to get my hands on.