In terms of consumer products, Microsoft is one of the leaders in delivering motion and tracking technology to the masses. The company's Kinect and Kinect v2 use hand and body tracking alongside voice commands to allow users to interact with content on an Xbox console.
Microsoft has also used the Kinect technology for other applications, and now the company is looking to match its expertise in motion tracking with the VR world. Virtual reality is the next entertainment horizon, while it has applications beyond that too. Microsoft has backed augmented reality with the HoloLens headset, but the company has several research projects exploring the possibilities of VR.
The latest effort from Microsoft Research is giving VR users a feeling of interacting with objects by tricking the mind. This is a project Microsoft first discussed back in May when it demoed similar tech with Minecraft and haptic retargeting. The company has now put a more official stamp on the work and released a blog and videos to show off the extended results.
At The time we wrote:
“One of the biggest issues for virtual reality is that it immerses users in a completely fabricated environment, which is cool of course, but real interactions are impossible. Microsoft Research is on the way to solving that problem and used Minecraft to show off its progress so far, showing that VR could be more immersive and allow true interaction.
As is often the case, the solution is elegantly simple in tech terms. There were no new inventions, simple Microsoft Researchers using an Oculus Rift VR headset and one of its own Xbox Kinect v2 units. The Rift on the head and the Kinect attached to a ceiling tracked the hands and body of the wearer and the result was approaching real world interaction.”
Microsoft Research calls the technology Handpose, it is able to track and scan a user's real-time movements and gestures with an accurate tracking algorithm. The movements are then scanned into the virtual reality world, which allows the user to interact with objects and the environment.
Microsoft says the technology is very sensitive and accurate, capable of reading finger movements and ever understanding the intent of the user. Of course, this is still a development program, but Microsoft is putting in enough effort that this could easily be part of the next generation of VR gaming technology and beyond.