Samsung's C-Lab incubator has been busy at CES 2016, showing off a health monitoring belt and Tip Talk, which lets you hear calls and audio messages by pressing your finger to your ear.
Also here under the C-Lab banner is Rink, a pair of handheld, gesture based controllers for the Samsung Gear VR. The device could be spun out into its own startup, like Tip Talk via Innomdle Lab, or developed in-house at Samsung, according to its creator, senior engineer Yongjin Cho who took a year out to create and develop the rink prototype.
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We say - build it, one way or the other. We're pretty sure most, if not all, Gear VR owners would buy an accessory like this.
Here's how they work - you slide each hand into the middle of each wireless C-shaped controller and grip the cushioned segment.
I wouldn't say it's the most comfortable on the hand right now, it's quite tight, but Rink is certainly more manageable than the HTC Vive controllers, for instance. Even the new, redesigned ones. It allows you to move your hands freely rather than worry about dropping the controllers. Think of them as a fairly polished, yet simplified Oculus Touch for mobile VR.
I played a fun demo where I shot at overhead planes Iron Man style by moving my hands to aim, closing my hand into a fist then quickly opening my palm out to fire energy blasts. I could see visuals of each hand on screen in the virtual scene and overall, it was quick to respond and illustrate my swipes and tilts. The demo ran well with no problems, though we've seen some reports of bugs - hey, it's a prototype.
One of the rink controllers did get pretty hot by the end of my short demo, at which point we decided to call it quits.
The set up requires a small unit on top of the Gear VR headset - Rink uses both infrared and a magnetic field for positional and 360 degree gesture tracking. But it's not too heavy or bulky and we're sure this isn't the final design.
As well as the single demo the team were showing off at CES, Cho and his fellow engineers say that Rink can track individual finger gestures and allow users to interact with virtual objects. So there's clearly more to come.
What's great about Rink is that it brings a version of high end VR controls to a $99 headset which so far relies on head tracking, a touchpad and Bluetooth gamepads. The team is referring to them as mobile VR controllers, too, opening up the possibility of compatibility with Cardboard headsets or any new Gear VR rivals we might see later in 2016. Samsung, if you're listening, Rink is a winner. We'd like a pair ASAP please.