When I think of controller attachments, I instantly imagine the crappy Wii remote add-ons I had as a kid.
At first, I loved them – I wouldn’t touch Wii Sports unless my controller looked like a tennis racket or golf club – but over time, I came to despise them. The cheap plastic constructions would always break after a few uses, and they objectively made playing games harder because they’d block the sensor on the end of the remote.
I’ve recently had the chance to try out the HelloReal Grip-to-putter with my Oculus Quest 2 and Meta Quest Pro VR headsets, and it’s reopened my eyes to the immersion that accessories can bring to virtual reality – whether it’s gaming, working out, or just plain working.
My Grip-to-putter thoughts
The HelloReal Grip-to-putter is a golf club controller attachment and the perfect companion for Walkabout Mini Golf – one of my favorite VR experiences.
You slot your Quest 2 or Quest Pro controller into the open end where it sits snuggly – for additional assurance that your handset won’t fly off when you swing the club HelloReal has included instructions on securing it using the controller’s wrist straps. Once it’s in place you can boot up your favorite VR golfing app and enjoy swinging a club that feels much more like the real thing than your controller ever did.
The Grip-to-putter gets its name from the grip-to-putt feature in Walkabout Mini Golf. When this setting is switched on in the app’s menu your club’s end will vanish until you hold down the side grip button on the controller. This lets you get a few practice swings without the risk of accidentally hitting your virtual ball before you’re ready.
HelloReal’s attachment includes a contraption that will hold down the controller’s grip button when you press the trigger that sits just above the padded end. While playing Walkabout with the putter took a little getting used to – because the mechanics are a bit different with the add-on – I found that it made the whole experience significantly more immersive.
Have to feel to believe
As you can see from the images included above, the HelloReal putter looks nothing like a golf club beyond the fact it’s vaguely pole shaped. But it doesn’t matter what the add-on looks like, just what it feels like – and HelloReal has got the golf club feeling down to a tee. The padded grip and weight distribution of the putter are perfect.
Once I slipped my headset on, I fully believed I was holding a real golf club. And this got me thinking – I need more realistic feeling VR accessories to use at home.
Inspired by the Wii’s heyday, I can already imagine some of the VR gaming accessories I could get, such as attachments that mimic the feel of swords and axes or sporting-inspired add-ons for VR fishing and tennis.
For the VR fitness fans out there, wouldn’t it be great to get a weighted club attachment that makes your Supernatural workout a little tougher? Maybe someday, we could get a boxing glove-inspired accessory that brings Litesport VR and other boxing workouts to life.
While working in the metaverse, perhaps we could use blank slates and styluses that make us believe we’re writing on paper when taking virtual notes. OK, this add-on is a little bleak, but if metaverse working is inevitable, it might make it more enjoyable than I found it before – I much prefer traditional pen and paper to using a keyboard. It would also feel more real than the controller styluses Meta includes in the Quest Pro’s box, which enable you to write in VR, albeit clunkily. If you didn’t realize the styluses were in the box, it might be because they’re tiny and exceptionally easy to lose.
Cost and effect
These sorts of realism-boosting accessories are already deployed by commercial VR experiences you can find in some malls and theme parks to great effect – but they do admittedly have a downside if you want to bring them home. Cost.
Different add-ons have different prices, with gadgets like the Omni One VR treadmill at the ‘ridiculous’ (over $ 2,500, around £2,000 / AU$ 3,900) end, and accessories like the Grip-to-putter at a more reasonable $ 58.99 (around £46 / AU$ 91). Admittedly, $ 58.99 still isn’t ‘cheap’, but if you plan to use your VR accessory a lot, you'll likely feel it offers solid bang for your buck.
So if you are a VR power user – or even just pick it up once a week – and have been weighing up buying a few accessories for it, then I’d say go for it (provided they’re good quality). Burnt by the Wii, I’d been instantly dismissing every add-on as a gimmick, but after trying the HelloReal putter, I’ve been scouring the internet for other weird goodies I could pick up to improve my VR setup.