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Oculus VR snaps up hand-tracking and 3D modeling companies

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Oculus VR says it's acquired two more companies today, one that specializes in tracking hands and another that recreates highly-accurate 3D models from real world objects. The first, Nimble VR, started two years ago as a way to track what your hands are doing, something Oculus says "has the potential to be part of a great VR user experience." The project had raised $135,511 on Kickstarter, more than double its goal, before cancelling it today in light of the acquisition.

Visit the pyramids in Egypt or the Roman Colosseum

The other company, 13th Lab, specializes in tracking both 2D and 3D movement, as well as the creation of 3D objects and spaces using cameras. "The ability to acquire accurate 3D models of the real-world can enable all sorts of new applications and experiences, like visiting a one-to-one 3D model of the pyramids in Egypt or the Roman Colosseum in VR," Oculus said in a blog post.

Both companies are "winding down" to join the Oculus' product engineering and research groups.

Along with those two, Oculus said it's hired motion capture specialist Chris Bregler. He's worked on projects for Hewlett-Packard and Disney Feature Animation, and he was the lead developer of Industrial Light and Magic's system for tracking 2D textures on film. Oculus says that his new role will be directing its vision research team.

This is the latest hire for Oculus since it was acquired by Facebook in a $2 billion deal back in March. In June, Oculus bought Carbon Design Group, the same firm that helped Microsoft create the gamepad for the Xbox 360, as well as the first Kinect camera. The same month, Oculus also hired Jason Holtman, who had been the director of business development at Valve.

Tracking hands is not out of left field

The purchase of Nimble VR isn't out of left field for Oculus. A profile in Wired back in May noted that Oculus was working on its own external camera system for tracking hand movements as well as the outside world so that you could keep a VR visor down while interacting with the outside world. Third-party companies like San Francisco-based Leap Motion offered those two things in a camera kit that was compatible with the Oculus Rift (and others), but it appears that Oculus wants to make its own instead.

Here's a quick overview of Nimble VR's hand-tracking in action:

And here's some of 13th Lab's 3D technology at work: