How Does VR Controller Work – All You Need to Know, FAQs, and More

Are you wondering how a VR controller works?

Let’s look into it.

How Does VR Controller Work?

A VR (virtual reality) headset allows you to experience the virtual world, whereas controllers let you interact with it.

Controllers let you register your hand and fingers’ movements in a virtual world. They turn the physical movements of your hand and fingers into a digital motion inside your chosen virtual world.

Even though all VR Contro­lers may seem quite similar, there are some small differences between them that matter when you start using one for a longer period of time.

VR Controller Buying Guide

There are several key features that you should consider when choosing between different VR controller options.

Tracking Precision

To detect your hand and finger movements in VR, you need a lot of accuracy. Whether you’re playing VR games where one wrong move could mean losing a game or implementing complex business VR simu­lations where the accuracy of your movements is often a training objective, you need a lot.

There are different types of motion trackers available for use with VR headsets. We’ll cover them in greater depth later.

Build Quality

VR sims can be anywhere from several minutes to hours long, and this is where the quality of a controller begins to matter.

Cheap plastic covers lead to poor durability. Worse yet, badly made slippery controllers can slip out of your hands, even during intense VR activities such as gaming or exercise.

Ergonomics

You’ll notice that there are certain controllers that are just easier to use than others. Some controllers are better designed for comfort and ergonomics, whereas others are better suited for precision and accuracy.

Battery Life

Battery life determines how long the controller can be used before you need to stop playing and recharge it.

Some controllers need charging after a few short periods of use, whereas others can last for several long periods of time without needing to be charged.

Degree of Movement

If you’re using a wireless headset, you may be able to get better sound quality by plugging it into an audio jack on your computer instead of using Bluetooth.

Most people who play video game consoles know that they’re prone to accidents when using them. However, some virtual realities (VRs), such as Sony’s first PlayStation VR, have wireless controllers that allow for a greater level of freedom than others.

Let’s first take a look at how VR headsets and motion trackers actually record your movement and if you can interact with a VR environment without using any kind of controller.

VR Controllers

Most VR Controler devices include a set of buttons, a trigger, and usually a thumb stick that allows you to grab, push and pull, and manipulate virtual objects.

For example, pressing the “fire” key on a keyboard translates into pushing a real fire gun, whereas moving a joystick controls movement in a virtual world.

But the real question is how controllers are able to track your hand movements so precisely that it feels as if you’re really using your hands in VR. You wave your arms or even make motions.

To be able to track where your VR headset is located relative to the controller, it must know the position of the controller relative to itself.

Tracking Systems

The two most common ways to track controller movements at present are

  • lighthouse tracking
  • inside-out tracking

Lighthouse Tracking System

Lighthouse is used by the Valve Index VR headset and HTC Vive Pro. It requires at least two base station installations in your play area.

These base stations act as reference points for headsets, controllers, and other devices.

Each base stations contain an infrared (IR) beacon and two lasers, whereas each controller has several IR sensors. The base stations’ beacons emit a synchronization signal every sixty seconds while one of its laser beams sweeps the entire room.

Once the controller detects the pulse, it starts timing until one of its sensors is hit by a light source. Based on the light’s time of travel, the system determines where the controller is.

Inside-Out Tracking System

Used by Oculus Quest 2 (formerly known as Meta Quest 2) for inside-out tracking, the ring-based controllers use infrared light instead of cameras.

The camera located on the headband detects the LED lights and takes continuous pictures of them. Based on the pictures taken by the camera, the so-called constellation tracking system then calculates the location of the controller in space.

While the benefits of using the Lighthouses are improved accuracy and lessened bandwidth usage, the Constellation system is cheaper to implement than the Lighthouses and doesn’t require buying and setting up any external Base Stands.

VR Without Controllers: Is It Possible?

Several modern virtual reality systems allow for interaction with a VR world without using any kind of controller at all.

Hand Tracking Support

For instance, the new Oculus Quest 2 has native hands-free tracking. The built-in camera detects your natural gestures so you can control things in VR without having to hold controllers.

While the recent tracking rate change from 30 Hz to 60Hz has improved the tracking latency somewhat, it’s still far from perfect, while most VR apps don’t fully support hand control.

Downside

One of the downsides of hand-tracked VR right now is the lack of haptics, lower latency, and limited VR applications that fully support hand-tracked VR. However, these limitations can be overcome as VR innovation continues to spread out.

Leap Motion Controller

An alternative to a Kinect sensor is a Leap Motion Controller, which costs around $100. It uses two webcams and three infrared LEDs to map out the front space.

Leap Motion can be used to track hands for headsets such as Oculus VR, HTC Vive, and Valve Index, as well as traditional PC desktops.

accessories

The Most Useful VR Controller Accessories

These are the most common accessories for improving comfort and immersing yourself when using your VR controller.

You may be able to get variations of these for different controller types or even their 3D-printed replicas.

Controller Grips for Oculus Quest 2

If you’ve dropped your Quest controllers before, this gripper will solve the problem of slipping or missing controllers forever, as now they’ll be securely held by their straps.

Anker Charging Dock for Oculus Quest 2

With its excellent battery life, the Quest 2 already boasts an impressive feature set. However, if you’re having trouble keeping your headsets charged, then this Anker charging station will help keep them fully powered for longer.

SINWEVR VR Controller Gun for Quest 2

If you’re an ardent fan of VR shooter games, check out this case for your Oculus Quest 2 controllers that turns them into guns.

Magni Stock Carbon Fiber for Valve Index

This product is made from lightweight materials and is designed to improve immersion and aim in VR games. It’s an accessory of choice for the soon-to-be-released Doom VR game.

Conclusion

You shouldn’t worry too much about your controllers; most of them are made from cheap plastic. Because you’re not paying attention to the real world while playing, you’ll be able to break your controllers easily.

You can purchase VR controllers separately from the official manufacturers’ websites or via Amazon or eBay, but these purchases are likely to be quite expensive.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below.

Author

  • Victor Marquez

    Victor is the Editor in Chief at Techtyche. He tests the performance and quality of new VR boxes, headsets, pedals, etc. He got promoted to the Senior Game Tester position in 2021. His past experience makes him very qualified to review gadgets, speakers, VR, games, Xbox, laptops, and more. Feel free to check out his posts.

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