The Oculus Touch Motion Controller Review

Oculus released the Rift VR HMD in March 2016 to mixed fanfare. On the one hand, Oculus lived up to its promise to bring virtual reality from the research lab to the consumer market. On the other hand, the product that Oculus delivered felt decidedly incomplete, thanks entirely to the HTC Vive, which launched the following week, complete with room-scale tracking and tracked motion controllers.

It took Oculus the better part of a year to follow up with its Touch motion controls, but the company finally has a complete package that delivers immersive VR with hand presence.

The Touch controllers open many doors to different kinds of VR content on the Rift platform. Oculus’ team designed a remarkable piece of technology, and it couldn't come soon enough. Though the Rift HMD was clearly a product of significant attention to detail, we believe that Valve and HTC one-upped it with their Vive system.

Had the Rift launched sooner, months ahead of the Vive, reviewers wouldn't have spent so much time lamenting the lack of room-scale VR. Presumably, Oculus expected traditional gamers to be its early adopters, and they'd undoubtedly appreciate the familiarity of a gamepad. The company focused on fit and finish for its roll-out. Hand controllers weren't part of the phase-one plan. Until they had to be, that is.

HTC stole the show at Mobile World Congress 2015. It announced a partnership with Valve to introduce the world's first room-scale VR platform. Following that, all eyes were on Oculus for a response.

Evidently, Oculus was already working on a hand-tracking solution to complement the Rift, and it revealed Touch in June 2015. But Oculus didn’t stop with tracked controllers. The company believes Touch takes presence to the next level by adding avatar hands, which allow you to make social gestures in virtual reality. Are these really necessary, though? Does Oculus’ answer to the Vive wands live up to our expectations? Let's find out.

MORE: The Oculus Rift Review

MORE: The HTC Vive Review

Meet The Touch Controllers

Oculus spent a lot of time refining the design of its Touch controllers. By the time it revealed Touch, the company had already worked out the size and shape it'd use. But as engineers tend to do, Oculus continued iterating until they were happy with the final product. A great many prototypes were sent out to developers, and their feedback went into determining an ultimate combination of hardware features, functionality, and comfort.

As you no doubt already know, the Touch controllers are tracked wands that complement Oculus' Rift headset, utilizing the Constellation tracking system to provide six-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) movement for your hands in VR.

You get one controller for your right hand and another for your left. Touch is not ambidextrous. Each device is form-fitted for a specific hand, and both controllers have slightly different configurations.

Touch controllers include the same inputs found on Microsoft's Xbox One controller except for the D-pad and Xbox Home button. Each Touch controller features six buttons and a thumbstick. The face of the left controller includes the X and Y button, the Xbox menu button, and the thumbstick, which doubles as the sixth button input. On the handle, you’ll find a trigger button for your index finger and a grip button for your middle finger.

The right-hand Touch controller is a mirror of the left controller, except it has different face buttons. You get the A and B buttons, and the Oculus Home button.

The triggers on the Touch controllers are analog; the harder you pull, the stronger the input. The trigger under your index finger has a firm spring inside that provides tactile feedback. For comparison, if feels a lot like the trigger on Microsoft’s Xbox One controller.

The grip button under your middle finger doesn’t offer the same tactile response. Sure, it pops back out when you let it go, but the spring inside doesn’t provide much resistance when you press down. This button is deceivingly light, and it almost feels hollow.

Oculus' thumbsticks and the circumference of their rotation are smaller than what you're used to from the Xbox One, DualShock 4, and Wii U controllers. They also offer more resistance than most gamepads, which we think benefits precision. The smaller rotation area fits the natural motion of your thumb better than the larger sticks on console controllers, too.

Ergonomically, the Touch controllers fit your natural hand position well. Their handles rest in your palms as your fingers wrap around. With that grip, your thumb is free to work its magic comfortably up top.

The Touch controllers are balanced well. Most of their weight comes from the battery, so the palm of your hand wraps around the heaviest part. In fact, Oculus designed the controllers to be held comfortably with just your ring finger and pinky. You don’t even need your thumb pressing on the controller's face.

Oculus put all that effort into balancing the Touch controllers for a reason: It added capacitive touch sensors to them, enabling natural hand gestures in virtual reality. The controller can tell when your thumb, index, and middle finger are on it. Oculus then mapped this information to your avatar's digital hands. As a result, you can point, give a thumbs-up, make the finger-gun gesture, open your hand to wave, and even make a fist.

In addition to gesture-tracking sensors, the Touch controllers include rumble motors in the handles that vibrate to help you “feel” the virtual world you’re touching.

MORE: The History of Virtual Reality

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MORE: Nvidia GameWorks VR Explained

No Internal Batteries

Each Touch controller gets its power from a single AA battery that fits into the handle under a magnetically-sealed cover. Naturally, powering the controllers with replaceable batteries has advantages and disadvantages.

A built-in, rechargeable power source frees you from maintaining an inventory of batteries at home, but you also have to remember to plug in between uses. If you kill the batteries in a Vive controller, you're forced to wait as they charge back up. With the Touch controllers, you can simply replace the battery and get back to gaming.

Unlike the Xbox One controller, Oculus' Touch controllers don’t have USB ports, so you can't upgrade to a rechargeable battery pack like the Xbox Play and Charge kit. At least Oculus does give you your first set of batteries.

What Else Comes In The Box?

The Touch controllers require at least two Oculus Sensors to function properly. The headset works with just one because you’re almost always facing the Oculus Sensor, and there’s nothing to occlude its view.

Touch controllers add two more tracked objects, though, which could potentially occlude the sensor's view of one or more devices. To avoid this, Oculus includes a second sensor with its Touch controllers. That sensor is identical to the one you received with your Rift, and you'll need an extra USB 3.0 port for it.

The Touch package comes with one more component. Oculus collaborated with Harmonix to build Rock Band VR for the Rift. Instead of building a Constellation-tracked guitar, the companies worked together to create the Rock Band Connector, which lets you mount a Touch controller to Harmonix’s existing peripherals.

You might wonder why Oculus would give everyone the bracket instead of Harmonix selling it with the game. But remember that all of Oculus' titles are digital downloads. The company bundles a bracket with Touch so Rock Band fans aren't forced to go out and buy a physical product after downloading the game. You still need a Rock Band guitar, but you can use old ones if you have them from previous versions.

TouchSensor
Orientation sensors: Gyroscope, accelerometerSensor mount: Integrated stand, 1/4-20 camera mount-compatible
Outside-In Tracking: Oculus Rift-compatible trackingTracking technologyOculus Constellation tracking
Battery: AA batterySensor cable: 2.5m cable, requires USB 3.0
Input per controller: 1 index trigger, 1 grip trigger, 2 action buttons, 1 home or menu button, 1 thumbstick with click buttonPlay space:2x2 meters for front-facing two-sensor content; 1.5x1.5 meters for two-sensor 360° setup; 2.5x2.5 meters for three-sensor 360° setup
Dimensions:110mm wide, 100mm high; 98mm long
Warranty: Limited one-year warranty, except if purchased in the EU which grants a two-year warranty.
Weight: 136 grams (without battery), 156 grams (with battery)MSRP: $199 for Touch controllers with Oculus sensor


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  • edhem
    So it appears that the Oculus setup costs more than the HTC Vive, and for someone who does not have Donald Trump hands it might be uncomfortable? In addition, it appears that the Facebook Rift is not that easy to use for non-gamers, which to me seems to be very unusual for Facebook.
  • scolaner
    After spending a couple of days with these things at OC3, I was super impressed. One thing I wish for, though--and Kevin pointed out--is control over (for lack of a better term) the DPI. I like to dial down my mouse DPI somewhat, and I want to do the same with the Touch controllers.
  • stairmand
    I didn't bother to order these for my Rift, too expensive and the whole room-scale bit of VR didn't impress me. Driving games, flight sims etc are amazing but everything else seems a bit mediocre to me.
  • dark_lord69
    I have an Oculus but having a hard time convincing myself to buy these $200 controllers.

    When I first bought a controller it was about $25-30, which seemed like a lot for a controller. Then I bought one for my PS3 and I thought $50 was completely insane. So, no surprise that I'm not willing to listen to my wife bitch about spending $200 on controllers that don't even come with a game...

    You'll have to do a lot to convince me that these are worth $200.
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    So it appears that the Oculus setup costs more than the HTC Vive, and for someone who does not have Donald Trump hands it might be uncomfortable? In addition, it appears that the Facebook Rift is not that easy to use for non-gamers, which to me seems to be very unusual for Facebook.


    It costs the same as the HTC Vive, actually less for people who preordered. And the Touch controllers are extremely comfortable in my average hands.

    As for ease of use, the Rift certainly has the Vive beat. Setup is very intuitive.

    Anonymous said:
    I didn't bother to order these for my Rift, too expensive and the whole room-scale bit of VR didn't impress me. Driving games, flight sims etc are amazing but everything else seems a bit mediocre to me.


    I think you should reconsider, unless you're dead set on sticking to those genres. It is pretty damn mind-blowing when you first pick up and use these controllers.
  • Chris_342
    I've seen maybe 5 reviews and none complained about the comfort and I agree. I have medium sized hands and after a long demo at Best Buy on 2 separate occasions I felt that the controllers were the best I've used for the games I played.
  • kcarbotte
    Anonymous said:
    So it appears that the Oculus setup costs more than the HTC Vive, and for someone who does not have Donald Trump hands it might be uncomfortable? In addition, it appears that the Facebook Rift is not that easy to use for non-gamers, which to me seems to be very unusual for Facebook.


    I wouldn't go so far as the say its not that easy. Most of the games don't rely on the buttons that much.
    The buttons and joysticks add complexity, which will deter newcomers, such as people who have never played a video game before. But i would argue that Touch controllers are no more intimidating than a gamepad to non-gamers. .
  • problematiq
    Wish they used the "Lighthouse." I use them instead of the vive's wand.
  • scolaner
    Anonymous said:
    Anonymous said:
    So it appears that the Oculus setup costs more than the HTC Vive, and for someone who does not have Donald Trump hands it might be uncomfortable? In addition, it appears that the Facebook Rift is not that easy to use for non-gamers, which to me seems to be very unusual for Facebook.


    It costs the same as the HTC Vive, actually less for people who preordered. And the Touch controllers are extremely comfortable in my average hands.

    As for ease of use, the Rift certainly has the Vive beat. Setup is very intuitive.

    Anonymous said:
    I didn't bother to order these for my Rift, too expensive and the whole room-scale bit of VR didn't impress me. Driving games, flight sims etc are amazing but everything else seems a bit mediocre to me.


    I think you should reconsider, unless you're dead set on sticking to those genres. It is pretty damn mind-blowing when you first pick up and use these controllers.


    Note: Parse out room-scale from the Touch controllers...those are two different things. Both great. I might buy a Rift without the third cam. But I would definitely *not* buy one without the Touch controllers at this point...they're really, really great.
  • kjohnsen045
    A solution to the hand cramping issue the author had is to use something like Sugru to mold your own grip around the base
    https://sugru.com/
  • jpishgar
    Apart from the walled garden ecosystem of games, mandated exclusivity for what is essentially a display peripheral.
    Apart from the extreme limits to any room-scale experience at all.
    Apart from requiring the purchase of extra peripherals to achieve at a basic level what the Vive does out-of-the-box.
    Apart from being riddled with DRM.
    Apart from treating their early adopters as second-class folks, prioritizing Best Buy in-store orders over pre-orders from the Kickstarter.
    Apart from a more limited field of view.
    Apart from not having a front-facing camera.
    Apart from being exceedingly more uncomfortable for people with glasses.
    Apart from not having a chaperone system to keep you from slamming portions of your meat body into a wall or furniture.
    Apart from lacking a virtual keyboard and friend chats.
    Apart from having a hard head strap instead of a soft strap.

    Sure, I suppose the Oculus Rift beats out the Vive. In cost, at least. :P

    -JP
  • Sakkura
    Pretty sad that a director of community spreads that level of misinformation.
  • jpishgar
    Quote:
    Pretty sad that a director of community spreads that level of misinformation.


    On which part, exactly? Happy to provide sources and references on each item presented.

    -JP
  • Quetzhal
    @JPISGHAR

    They do have a chaperone system. It's called Guardian. Besides, a lot of what you list is either subjective or deliberately skews available information; saying the Touch controllers provide on a basic level what the Vive does out-of-the-box is patently false. Touch is capable of more given its finger tracking.

    Besides, I could make a similar list for the Vive:

    Apart from having a storefront choked with low-quality shovelware.
    Apart from having an inferior resolution.
    Apart from the terrible support provided by HTC. (See: Charger explodes, HTC tells customer "it is simple physics Robert")
    Apart from being riddled with DRM. (Come on, Steam is literally DRM.)
    Apart from having a dozen wires you have to mess around with, and a dozen failure points as a result.
    Apart from the fresnel ring artifacts within the lens. (PSVR is the winner here.)
    Apart from having a soft strap instead of a hard strap. (Entirely subjective and you know it.)
    Apart from locking your framerate to 45fps and reprojecting if your framerate drops too low.
    Apart from lacking ASW and ATW.

    Etc, etc. I could go on and on - I suspect both of us could. The fact of the matter is that it does no one any good to list all the negatives of any particular headset; they are almost equal in function, and a discussion on how morally correct Oculus' approach to exclusivity isn't relevant to a discussion about the hardware.

    The two headsets now have feature parity. Yes, each headset has its own advantages - but it's intellectually dishonest to go around touting a list of disadvantages. You're presenting the Rift as objectively inferior, when in fact it possesses an advantage over the Vive for each disadvantage (for instance, it has a lower field of view, but that in turn allows for greater apparent resolution).
  • Sakkura
    Anonymous said:
    Quote:
    Pretty sad that a director of community spreads that level of misinformation.


    On which part, exactly? Happy to provide sources and references on each item presented.

    -JP


    -Walled garden and hardware exclusivity. That is not the case, as Oculus content can run through Revive and the Rift can run Steam content.

    -Extreme limits to room scale. Extreme misinformation, more like.

    -Apart from requiring the purchase of extra peripherals. Duh, Oculus has two boxes for $798 that do what HTC's one box for $799 does.

    -Apart from being riddled with DRM. The hardware check DRM was removed soon after it was put in place to prevent Revive users from pirating games included with a Rift purchase. Other than that, Steam is as much a DRM platform as Oculus Home.

    -Apart from treating their early adopters as second-class folks. The backers got a FREE CV1 that they were never promised or that was even hinted at.

    -Apart from a more limited field of view. Well, true per se, but it's a tradeoff that results in better angular resolution and less discernible screen door effect.

    -Apart from not having a front-facing camera. That is the first unequivocally true claim. Whether the front-facing camera is a big deal is questionable, but it is an advantage at some level.

    -Apart from being exceedingly more uncomfortable for people with glasses. Feels fine with my glasses. Whereas the Vive is more uncomfortable for the great majority of users.

    -Apart from not having a chaperone system to keep you from slamming portions of your meat body into a wall or furniture. It has a chaperone system. It's one of the first things you set up when you get the Touch controllers.

    -Apart from lacking a virtual keyboard and friend chats. That has nothing to do with the Rift. Also a dubious advantage.

    -Apart from having a hard head strap instead of a soft strap. The hard head strap is an advantage and part of what makes the Rift more comfortable than the Vive.
  • jpishgar
    I can certainly see there's a nascent factional dispute forming here. Vive vs. Rift becoming the new Nvidia vs. AMD. Excellent.

    -JP
  • jasonelmore
    @Dark_Lord69

    Touch comes bundled with 7 games.. 5 current games and 2 games not even released yet. The games included are expensive games to boot.. Zombie is $40, Medium is $20, and the rest of them are $30+ games.

    your gonna get games with the controller purchase. If you dont want the games, sell the keys on ebay, and you will get your touch for half price most likely.
  • utgardaloki
    @QUETZHAL
    I think your list is down to the point. I’m not too much of a fan of either Vive nor Rift now that I’ve got used to them. Yet I really like them both for what they are capable of providing given they are 1st gen tech. Looking forward to gen 2 though.

    I do like the Rift’s less screen door effect. But I also like the Vive’s better FOV… I feel “more present” using Vive only in a blurrier and more “screendoory” state.

    I love the Vive’s larger Room-Scale tracking area compared to the Rift’s smaller given the size of my room. At the same time I don’t like the Vive’s steeper learning curve and fiddleling given setup of the technology… it took me some time to get the Lighthouses well installed meaning less occlusion and, first and foremost, less to no judder (whether the Rift exhibits the same I don’t know but at any rate the Vive was a little bit of a pain before getting it right and it involved some understanding of the system).
    The Touch system seems less prone to the “problems” meaning easier setup which is important for customers. The only way to get the Lighthouse system to work flawlessly was to install them in the ceiling looking down (at a 45 degree angle in my case) making the laser signals hard to occlude. Once the system was fully calibrated how ever the result was tremendous. The accuracy is unbelievable all through out the 4 by 3 meters room (13.1 X 9.8 feet+) I have to play with given any region of it, even within the corners from top to bottom. I can even leave the room given line of sight with at least one Lighthouse where tracking resolution is still stellar given even the controllers.

    I don’t care for the Rift’s finger gesture tracking regarding game play. If I as a human mean to gesture to another player while at the same time lacking a thumb or the like in real life I would still be able to gesture my point across given even larger distances than a raised thumb could by simply waving my hands and arms around in real life as well as in VR (easily tested in reality with people that lack even hands, they do get their point across). That makes the finger gesture no more than a gimmick.
    And the fact that Vive can’t portray this means that something like half of the market won’t be able to use the feature. That means the feature will never be able to be used as anything more than a second order feature (so gimmick). As far as I can see the only time a feature matters game-playwise is when anyone and everyone can use it. That’s known as a first order feature. Such a feature provides possibilities of controllability that benefit all meaning they can be incorporated into the basic game play schematics vs. second order ones that are strictly limited to added eye candy.
    Nvidia Physx is another example of strictly second order features that never took off and still matters for nothing given game play development due to the fact that only Nvidia owners can use it making it useless for actual game play implementations (why disable all of the AMD potential customers by making Physx mandatory/first order?). The Touch buttons are nothing more nor nothing less than this. Second order implementations mean nothing for the game play unless Oculus starts ruling the VR market, having to pay no attention to the Vive owners or others.
    The same thing bothers me regarding Vive’s “next gen” controllers that are even more advanced than the Touch. In what way do they matter if those controllers are necessary for game play features given that just about no one will have them given the larger masses of VR owners? In either case you will not be able to implement special game-play features needed to fully play a game built from the ground up using those controllers. If you need those exact second gen Vive controllers for a game, that maybe 10% or less of the users have, then who will make a full blown game for exactly those controllers? I sure wouldn’t, knowing the demographic of potential customers.

    Keyboard and mouse has been the pinnacle of PC gaming controls since its inception. That changes with VR. So how to change and agree upon a standard regarding this such as keyboard and mouse used to be?
  • Jalag
    To the guy who said these are too expensive at $200 and "don't come with any games" - they actually come with: Dead and Buried ($40 otherwise), Oculus Medium ($30 otherwise), Quill ($30 otherwise). For people who pre-order, they also include The Unspoken ($30 otherwise) and VR Sports Challenge ($30 otherwise).

    So that's $160 of content ($100 if you didn't pre-order), which comes down to $50 per controller. And you get a free copy of Bullet Train, Toybox, Rec Room, and Robo Recall (when released in a few months). Oh, and Ripcoil is also free if you buy anything on the Oculus store.

    Overall, that's a pretty good value considering that these are a heck of a lot more sophisticated than an Xbox or Dual Shock controller.
  • problematiq
    Anonymous said:
    @QUETZHAL
    I think your list is down to the point. I’m not too much of a fan of either Vive nor Rift now that I’ve got used to them. Yet I really like them both for what they are capable of providing given they are 1st gen tech. Looking forward to gen 2 though.

    I do like the Rift’s less screen door effect. But I also like the Vive’s better FOV… I feel “more present” using Vive only in a blurrier and more “screendoory” state.

    I love the Vive’s larger Room-Scale tracking area compared to the Rift’s smaller given the size of my room. At the same time I don’t like the Vive’s steeper learning curve and fiddleling given setup of the technology… it took me some time to get the Lighthouses well installed meaning less occlusion and, first and foremost, less to no judder (whether the Rift exhibits the same I don’t know but at any rate the Vive was a little bit of a pain before getting it right and it involved some understanding of the system).
    The Touch system seems less prone to the “problems” meaning easier setup which is important for customers. The only way to get the Lighthouse system to work flawlessly was to install them in the ceiling looking down (at a 45 degree angle in my case) making the laser signals hard to occlude. Once the system was fully calibrated how ever the result was tremendous. The accuracy is unbelievable all through out the 4 by 3 meters room (13.1 X 9.8 feet+) I have to play with given any region of it, even within the corners from top to bottom. I can even leave the room given line of sight with at least one Lighthouse where tracking resolution is still stellar given even the controllers.

    I don’t care for the Rift’s finger gesture tracking regarding game play. If I as a human mean to gesture to another player while at the same time lacking a thumb or the like in real life I would still be able to gesture my point across given even larger distances than a raised thumb could by simply waving my hands and arms around in real life as well as in VR (easily tested in reality with people that lack even hands, they do get their point across). That makes the finger gesture no more than a gimmick.
    And the fact that Vive can’t portray this means that something like half of the market won’t be able to use the feature. That means the feature will never be able to be used as anything more than a second order feature (so gimmick). As far as I can see the only time a feature matters game-playwise is when anyone and everyone can use it. That’s known as a first order feature. Such a feature provides possibilities of controllability that benefit all meaning they can be incorporated into the basic game play schematics vs. second order ones that are strictly limited to added eye candy.
    Nvidia Physx is another example of strictly second order features that never took off and still matters for nothing given game play development due to the fact that only Nvidia owners can use it making it useless for actual game play implementations (why disable all of the AMD potential customers by making Physx mandatory/first order?). The Touch buttons are nothing more nor nothing less than this. Second order implementations mean nothing for the game play unless Oculus starts ruling the VR market, having to pay no attention to the Vive owners or others.
    The same thing bothers me regarding Vive’s “next gen” controllers that are even more advanced than the Touch. In what way do they matter if those controllers are necessary for game play features given that just about no one will have them given the larger masses of VR owners? In either case you will not be able to implement special game-play features needed to fully play a game built from the ground up using those controllers. If you need those exact second gen Vive controllers for a game, that maybe 10% or less of the users have, then who will make a full blown game for exactly those controllers? I sure wouldn’t, knowing the demographic of potential customers.

    Keyboard and mouse has been the pinnacle of PC gaming controls since its inception. That changes with VR. So how to change and agree upon a standard regarding this such as keyboard and mouse used to be?


    I enjoyed your comment/article. There are things I like about both, and a lot of mud slinging where there really doesn't need to be.