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Feet-on with the Virtuix Omni: Full Oculus Rift Immersion

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 11 comments

The Oculus Rift adds the visuals while the Omni adds the in-game movement using your own steps.

During E3 2013, I got a chance to check out the Omni gaming peripheral in a private showing offered by Virtuix. The device builds upon the immersion effect offered by Oculus Rift and other VR headsets by allowing users to actively walk and run though virtual environments rather than passively use gamepads and the standard keyboard/mouse combo.

The Kickstarter campaign for Omni started on June 4, and actually reached its goal of $150,000 in two days -- and it's still climbing. That's super impressive, and should help Virtuix refine its product way beyond what was shown during the gaming convention.

The Omni comprises of a passive, concave base with ridges for traction, a built-in circular stand for gripping with your hands and keeping your body in position, and a belt-like device that clips around your waist and rests upon the stand for even more stabilization. There are also shoes with a special sole that somewhat fits into the grooves in the base, and software that allows the user to map the foot movements to the directional keys in a PC game.

The current prototype also uses a Kinect for Windows camera to actually detect the user's foot movement. While this indeed works, it's not entirely accurate either: you may start moving and Kinect won't pick up until a second later – same for stopping. Virtuix plans to actually create sensors that will be built into the shoes for less latency and more precise virtual movement.

The demo provided during E3 2013 used Half-Life 2 and the Oculus Rift. Thus, after I slipped on the shoes and was locked into the Omni, I was asked to practice moving in various directions. Essentially you have to walk forward in one spot without actually moving or reverting to marching in one place. The base doesn't move like a treadmill either, so the process is a little weird.

Once users get the hang of pseudo-walking, the Oculus Rift is slapped on their face. With a gun in one hand and your other hand gripping the Omni's circular stand (the "belt" actually frees your other hand), you must "walk" though the environment and shoot down enemy targets firing back at you. Being thrown into the Half-Life 2 environment and seeing NPCs that have up until now been "flat" and on a PC/console screen, the encounters were highly jarring. Throw in actual walking and turning, and you have a new method of losing weight.

And then it hit me: this would be awesome in a non-VR gaming application. Take the Wii for instance: you can jog in a virtual world by placing the Wiimote in your pocket. Why couldn't you actually run in place using the Omni? Even more, throw in the Oculus Rift and you're transported into a virtual realm where you can jog alongside other virtual athletes.

The Omni will be sold on its own, so users can purchase any VR headset they want. The company also plans to make the stand adjustable so that it accommodates most users of various heights. Unfortunately, there's no chance of sensor clip-ons later on down the road for your current pair of shoes: the system will come packed with its own set of special shoes for the ideal experience.

"Gaming on a keyboard, mouse or gamepad while seated pales in comparison to the intense experience and fun that comes from actually walking, running, and jumping in games," said Jan Goetgeluk, CEO of Virtuix. "Bringing this innovation to Kickstarter will accelerate the integration of natural motion into emerging virtual reality applications such as gaming, fitness, and simulation."

There's definitely a lot of promise in the Omni, and I look forward in seeing how this VR tech will handle movement once the Kinect is ditched for built-in shoe sensors. Like the Oculus Rift, it's the next step in the evolution of gaming without forcing customers to borrow money from the bank.

Virtuix Omni at E3 2013

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  • 0 Hide
    vmem , June 24, 2013 8:54 AM
    next thing you know, the gaming population will get a whole lot more fit (on average) :p 
  • 0 Hide
    CaedenV , June 24, 2013 9:08 AM
    Pretty cool!
    2 questions:
    -Expected price?
    -Is the treadmill really all that noisy? Or is it just the camera picking it up?
  • 0 Hide
    stingstang , June 24, 2013 9:14 AM
    Not gonna lie. This looks pretty silly. Still, I can't help this smile on my face looking at the way it works. I just wouldn't want anyone else seeing me using it.
  • 0 Hide
    eklipz330 , June 24, 2013 9:51 AM
    not gonna happen. this product is too too too early in it's life. wait till the oculus has a large user base. maybe arcade like stores will open in it's wake, and this would be perfect there. but not now.
  • 0 Hide
    rwinches , June 24, 2013 12:03 PM
    This is great it jumps a major hurdle in VR gaming and add greatly to the immersion. I can't believe the lame comments worrying about how one would look. VR is the future not only of gaming but also adventure and staycation travel. You could explore caves, jungles, the moon or mars, the space station, the louvre or any museum.
  • 0 Hide
    jkflipflop98 , June 24, 2013 1:58 PM
    Quote:
    Not gonna lie. This looks pretty silly. Still, I can't help this smile on my face looking at the way it works. I just wouldn't want anyone else seeing me using it.


    If that's your first thought, then you have some serious self-esteem issues to work out. You should probably begin a psychotherapy regimen.
  • 0 Hide
    warmon6 , June 24, 2013 2:21 PM
    Quote:
    Pretty cool!
    2 questions:
    -Expected price?
    -Is the treadmill really all that noisy? Or is it just the camera picking it up?


    1. There is no price yet. (It's still a prototype)

    2. It's actually not a treadmill at all. It's just a solid platform and what you're hearing is the foot hitting the platform


    While this article explains it a bit, it doesn't show it in the video all that well.

    Here's 3 video's that Linus from LinusTechTips has done that shows the Virtuix Omni, explains how it works (currently in prototype and what they want to do before launch), show it in action with different people, and an interview with the inventor.

    Virtuix Omni Prototype Unboxing & Technology Overview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGFuedKS9Mg

    Virtuix Omni & Oculus Test Drive - Linus & Slick Virtual Reality Virgins: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VVNr15CTPMk

    Virtuix Omni Interview with Jan Goetgeluk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmqNZqFjMrU


    Hope these video's clear up anything that the article might of missed or isn't shown very well.
  • 0 Hide
    aoneone , June 24, 2013 3:10 PM
    Loud, clunky, and how do you jump without destroying it and/or surrounding areas?
  • 0 Hide
    banaanc , June 24, 2013 4:05 PM
    awesome thing, but main problems are jump/sneak/cover etc.

    but 12h of gaming would be kind of hard with this and it would be hard to find your beer cause of all the turning :D 
  • 0 Hide
    bustapr , June 24, 2013 4:26 PM
    I actually thought itd be dumb when I read the title, but the video came out quite interesting. you just know the price is going to be enormous, but thats to be expected in such a peripheral. lets just hope this kickstarter money helps them improve all the mentioned problems and design a sturdier platform. actually looks like a very fun way to play games.
  • 0 Hide
    alidan , June 25, 2013 2:04 AM
    Quote:
    Pretty cool!
    2 questions:
    -Expected price?
    -Is the treadmill really all that noisy? Or is it just the camera picking it up?


    its a prototype they are showing. i imagine this is best used with closed can headphones, where even in silence i wouldnt hear much noise

    Quote:
    Not gonna lie. This looks pretty silly. Still, I can't help this smile on my face looking at the way it works. I just wouldn't want anyone else seeing me using it.


    i have parents like that who more or less crapped themselves a few years ago when i played a DS in a restaurant while we were waiting 45 minutes for seats. i believe i was 21 at the time, i think they learned a good lesson about how little i care what others think of me that day, can't really write what i responded to them with because of sanction reason.

    Quote:
    not gonna happen. this product is too too too early in it's life. wait till the oculus has a large user base. maybe arcade like stores will open in it's wake, and this would be perfect there. but not now.


    yea, this is a bit early, theres no question there, but i have been in a vr setup like this before, i think it was close to 10 or so years ago, the only difference is they didn't have the treadmill thing going for it (its easier to say treadmill than slippery surface)

    Quote:
    This is great it jumps a major hurdle in VR gaming and add greatly to the immersion. I can't believe the lame comments worrying about how one would look. VR is the future not only of gaming but also adventure and staycation travel. You could explore caves, jungles, the moon or mars, the space station, the louvre or any museum.


    for me, no, i don't want to go places i can in real life. i have said it for awhile, that if a game came along where all i did was explore an area, and it had no goal at all, i would get it so long as it was cheap and the environment was interesting. so far i believe there is only one game like that, and its Proteus, now just imagine that as a game but with a fantasy world, rendered realistically... i may not pay much, but i would pay for that kind of experience.

    Quote:
    I actually thought itd be dumb when I read the title, but the video came out quite interesting. you just know the price is going to be enormous, but thats to be expected in such a peripheral. lets just hope this kickstarter money helps them improve all the mentioned problems and design a sturdier platform. actually looks like a very fun way to play games.

    249$ = Get the Omni base and shoes, and build the upper support structure yourself.
    399$ = OMNI READY PLAYER ONE: Receive a copy of Ready Player One signed by Ernest Cline! Take a peak into the future. And get the full Omni natural motion interface, including platform, shoes, belt, and tracking hardware and software. Get ready to move naturally in VR and enter a new world.

    unless that is absolute base cost and they are going for no profit at all, that should gie some indication as to the full price, which in all honesty isn't bad, if they make one where i can jog or even full on run, i may get one for exercise, but honestly, i think its to new for right now, and the real software to blow me away wont happen for another 1 maybe 2 years, and by than there may even be a product revision.

    that said, at e3 the oculus people were showing off a game that worked like the doctor who episode blink... anyone know if this was part of the demo?