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Roomscale Oculus Rift? 'Guardian' Boundary System, Touch Controllers Indicate New Capabilities

One of the primary differences between the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive is that the latter offers roomscale experiences. Rift is currently a sit-down experience only. The upcoming Touch controllers will add standing experiences, but it appears that Oculus is preparing roomscale support, too.

The September update of the Rift software (version 1.8) is coming soon, and it's bringing a new boundary system called the Guardian. It's a clear response to Valve’s Chaperone system, and it will allow you to configure virtual boundaries for your safe play space so that you don’t bump into walls or furniture while playing.

The Oculus Guardian system appears to be a carbon copy of Valve’s Chaperone. You will have to trace your play area and calibrate your floor, and from then on the Guardian will display a series of crosses that indicate your boundaries. Guardian also traces a line on the floor around your entire play space. Oculus said that you could choose to see the floor and walls, or the floor only, or you can opt to disable the boundaries altogether. If you leave them on, the markers appear on top of any application when you approach the edge of the safe zone, just like the Chaperone for the Vive.

This announcement bolsters the usefulness of the Touch controllers, which were first revealed at a press event days before E3 2015. At the time, Oculus intended to ship the Rift in Q1 of 2016 and follow with the Touch controllers in Q2. At the end of December 2015, Oculus announced a delay of the Touch launch, though the company maintained that the controllers would ship in 2016.

Earlier this summer, Oculus announced its third annual VR developer conference, Oculus Connect 3, and the company promised that Oculus Touch is high on the agenda. Oculus said it would reveal the details about the hardware, and we expect the company to reveal the release date and price. The company may even open pre-orders during the event.

Most of the details about the Touch controllers and how they work remain a mystery, but thanks to the documentation of the Rift SDK 1.8 updated, we get a taste of what’s to come. Oculus Touch is a pair of six-degrees of freedom (6DoF) tracked controllers that bring your hands into VR, which brings the Rift platform closer to parity with the Vive.

Oculus said we'd learn more about Oculus Guardian and OC3 in October, but developers with access to Touch engineering samples can experiment with the Guardian feature following the September update, which Oculus said drops this week.

Kevin Carbotte is a Contributing Writer for Tom's Hardware US. He writes news and reviews of graphics cards and virtual reality hardware.