Oculus acquires gesture-control firm

Oculus is acquiring Pebbles International; the goal is to advance immersive user experiences and computer-human interaction, for gaming and beyond.

Facebook, owner of virtual reality gaming company Oculus, has inked a deal to buy gesture-control and computer-vision company Pebbles Interfaces.

Facebook announced that it will add the Israel-based company, its technology and its team to its Oculus team.

Pebbles, a five-year-old company, stated on its website that joining Oculus should help the combined team advance immersive user experiences and computer-human interactions.

"Through micro-optics and computer vision, we hope to improve the information that can be extracted from optical sensors, which will help take virtual reality to the next level," said Nadav Grossinger, CTO of Pebbles Interfaces, in a written statement. "We've always believed visual computing will be the next major platform in our lifetime, and we're excited to join the Oculus team to achieve that vision for the future."

Facebook, which has kept a large section of its user base entertained with social games like Farmville and Candy Crush, dove deeper into the gaming world in March 2014 when it bought Oculus.

Even though Oculus hadn't released Rift, its virtual reality headset, yet, Facebook still paid US$2 billion for the company.

Oculus Rift is designed to give gamers a 100-degree 3D field of view.

This past May, Facebook and Oculus bought image recognition company Surreal Vision, which had been focused on recreating real-life scenes inside 3D environments.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said he's intrigued by the Pebbles purchase because the company is known to have some strong gesture-control technology.

"This technology appears to offer finite finger control, meaning that it is possible be more precise than using other types of gaming controllers," he added. "If it does what it says it will, then it would help advance the state of virtual reality. With this, virtual reality users can work with virtual objects with their hands and fingers."

And that goes beyond gaming.

"If you had an architect who wanted to work on a house, instead of using a mouse and keyboard, he could use his hands to move in and out of the virtual house, add features and move features," said Moorhead. "This could help Oculus gain greater levels of acceptance, given it works well and naturally."

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research, said Pebbles' gesture-control technology fits well with what Oculus is working on.

"With hand gestures, they're much more natural movements," he added. "Facebook has announced it would sell [gaming] controllers so now users would have a choice. Those who like controllers can use that, or when gesturing makes more sense, now they'll have that option too."

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