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For some time, we at bestvr.tech have been leading the call for the development of a virtual office. But the problem is that when you’re locked inside the immersive world of a virtual office, it’s very hard to enter data via a real keyboard. Now we can bring you the news that HTC is teaming up with Logitech to introduce the BRIDGE developers kit, an SDK to help developers create a virtual keyboard.
The BRIDGE kit consists of a Logitech G gaming keyboard, an accessory that positions the Vive Tracker, and the associated software to link the two. And the great news for developers, is that to kick things off, they are giving away 50 of these kits to selected developers FREE – and if there is sufficient interest, they may bring out more kits.
As Guy Godin of Virtual desktop has said:
Whether you’re doing work or surfing the web you sometimes need the ability to enter text, and Logitech has made it easier to use your keyboard in VR. With Bridge, you can see your physical keyboard, your hands and type without having to take your headset off.
The VR community is finally waking up to the fact that – as we at bestvr.tech have been saying all along – virtual reality needs a way of inputting data with an efficiency comparable to typing it in on a keyboard. Whilst speech recognition and even mind-machine interface are the holy grails of the computing industry, they are still a long way off. Despite much-touted advances in speech recognition, the keyboard is still the main method of entering data into a computer.
However, as long as the emphasis in VR was on games, it was assumed that body tracking, and controllers serving as stand-ins for guns were a sufficient combination to make the user experience a pleasing one.
But for some people – like us at bestvr.tech – games were always a sideshow to the main event under the big top. From the beginning, we saw the future of VR in work rather than play. And work calls for an efficient means of entering data. Even browsing, requires the ability to enter words as well as click on hot links.
But finger and hand tracking are also not quite there yet, and people like the haptic feedback of actually feeling a real keyboard. However, when one is immersed in a virtual world, the real keyboard isn’t visible, and even if one can touch type, one does occasionally need to see the real keyboard to re-orient oneself.
So how did the solve the problem? By creating the means whereby the real keyboard, that actually takes the input, can be synchronized positionally with a virtual keyboard that is shown to the user through the headset.
What they have created is a piece of software that presents the user with an overlaid representation of their keyboard on any VR application, even to the point of showing when a key is pressed.
With the software running, the overlay appears automatically as soon as the associated Vive Tracker is turned on. It also allows the opportunity to skin the keyboard in a variety of ways. Best of all, they have even created a way for the Vive’s existing tracking to see your hands as virtual hands, mapped out against the keyboard.
HTC and Logitech are now looking to the developer community, to take this interface to the next level. We believe that the next level will be the virtual office and the use of virtual reality in the workplace. Imagine turning a dull and dreary office into an executive suite with a panoramic view of a great metropolis? Instead of looking at a wall or a back yard, you can now imagine that you are Gordon Gecko looking down over Wall Street!
Or you can turn up the central heating, put on the headset and abracadabra! You are now sitting on a sun-drenched, sandy beach looking out at the Caribbean, Pacific Ocean or Mediterranean Sea as you work. Yes it’s true, you still have to work… but in a much more pleasant environment.
At least, that’s the way we a bestvr.tech see things panning out.
Anyway, they are are now taking applications from developers for the first 50 of these developer kits. If you are interested in applying, click on this link. The application window ends on the 16th of November. The SDK is a BETA version and is intended for proof of concept rather than market ready products. HTC acknowledges that the system has bugs and you should be prepared to encounter them.