HTC Vive, Qualcomm Back FinchShift's Camera-Free 6DoF VR Controllers (Update)

Update 1/11/2019 11:20 a.m. PT: We've added a photo of the FinchShift controllers taken at CES 2019, as well as pricing and availability information. 

Finch Technologies announced January 3 that FinchShift controllers, which it claims are the "first cross-platform, camera-free controllers enabling natural and immersive interaction in VR/AR through all six degrees of freedom (6DoF) and with no field-of-view (FOV) limitations," will soon reach developers. HTC Vive plans to offer the FinchShift controllers to its developer community and support them with an update to its Wave SDK.

Qualcomm also confirmed that the FinchShift controllers are compatible with its Snapdragon 845 VR Reference Design. The developer kit based on that design was revealed in February 2018 (with more details about it being released in March) and is now available for $1,600. Ensuring the FinchShift controllers are compatible with this reference design will make it easier for mobile VR developers to support them in their own products.

The promise of wireless controls with 6DoF and no FOV restrictions that don't rely on cameras will have to be experienced to be believed. And that's why the company will demo the FinchShift controllers at the CES tech trade show in Las Vegas next week, including at Qualcomm's own booth. 

FinchShift controllers actually rely on two hardware systems: the controllers themselves and FinchTracker armbands. The former are used as typical VR controllers; the latter will monitor users' arm movements to make the system's input more accurate. (They've got to compensate for the lack of cameras somehow.) These pieces work together to offer 360-degree body tracking at room scale with a claimed 2-25mm position accuracy.

Finch Technologies claim the controllers incur less than a 1 percent hit on CPU usage, boast a latency of 27ms and can be used for 52 hours of active playing time before needing to be charged. They also feature LED optical markers to allow them to be used with camera-enabled devices. Data is transferred via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 4.2 with a transfer rate of 100Hz. These are development models, though, so the specs might change.

The FinchShift controllers have been made available for pre-order as the FinchShift Development Kit from the company's website. Prices range from $250 for an individual kit to $179 per kit if more than 50 units are ordered. 

During CES, a massive consumer tech show in Las Vegas this week, Tom's Hardware spoke with Finch and confirmed that pre-orders for the Finch controllers development kit will see shipment by the end of this month. Mass production is currently in the preparation stages, they said; however, the company was not able to confirm an official date for general availability. 

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.