Roto VR Production Delayed Over Safety Concerns, On Track For Q2 Delivery

Roto VR today released a production update which sheds light on the company’s most recent production delays. The company said in December that it would begin shipping consumer-grade hardware in February, but safety concerns forced it to put a hold on product shipments.

Roto VR began accepting pre-orders for its motorized Roto VR chair in May 2016. At the time, the company believed that it would begin shipping product in just a few months, but here we are almost two years later and the company still isn’t shipping Roto VR chairs to customers.

Roto VR has made several attempts to produce the Roto VR motorized chair in the last two years. In October 2016, the company announced that production was about to start and that shipments would begin in January 2017. January slipped by, as did most of 2017, without an update from Roto VR, but in September, the company resurfaced and announced that it was conducting a pilot production run with a retooled chair design. In December, Roto VR announced that full production was about to begin, and developer units were going out the door already. Consumer fulfillment was to begin in February, pending regulatory approval.

Following the December announcement, Roto VR went quiet about its progress. Today the company revealed what happened. Roto VR said that it started the production line in December, again in February, and once again in March. However, shipments are on hold because of safety concerns. Roto VR didn’t mention anything about not passing FCC and CE certifications, but its internal quality control department refused to sign off on the device.

Roto VR said that the quality control department found bugs that made operating the chair hazardous. The way the company described the problem, we’d be more included to classify the concerns design flaws rather than bugs. Roto VR’s quality control team determined that the chair needs two additional safety features before the units can go out to customers.

Roto VR’s motorized chair is controlled by a wireless head tracker, that straps to your HMD. Roto VR’s original design didn’t include a feature that would disable tracking movement when you take your headset off. Originally, Roto VR intended to instruct users to turn the tracker off before removing their headset. The company determined that powering off the device first is not intuitive enough. The revision includes a provision that would disable tracking as soon as you lift the HMD from your face. Roto VR also installed a system that automatically disables the chair's motors at the same time.

Updated Features

Roto VR’s setbacks aren’t all bad news, though. The extra lead time enabled the company to rework some of the chair's features. When Roto VR opened pre-orders for the motorized chair, the company also revealed a handful of accessories such as the Double Rumble feature, which added haptic feedback to the chair with two bass shaker speakers. The company isn’t abandoning the Double Rumble system, but it updated the hardware to improve the experience. The new system does away with the speaker-based rumble system in exchange for a rumble-motor system, which uses off-set weights to add depth the rumbling feel. Roto VR also said that the rumble feature is no longer an optional upgrade. The company determined that the rumble feature adds to the immersion so much that it’s now a standard feature for all Roto VR units.

Roto VR also revealed developer tools that enable fine-tuned control of the rumble system to take full advantage of its potential. Developers don’t need to intervene to take advantage of the basic rumble system, though. Without additional instruction from the game, the Roto VR Double Rumble system is activated by the game's audio.

Support For More HMDs

When Roto VR announced the motorized Roto VR chair, the consumer VR industry was just kicking off. The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive were on the market; the PlayStation VR was coming, but not yet available; and the mobile VR market consisted of Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR. Today, several more VR options are available, and even more are about to arrive. Fortunately, Roto VR is on top of the latest developments in the VR HMD market, and it’s prepared to take on the new market landscape.

Roto VR went back to the drawing board and redesigned the cable magazine to support almost every VR headset on the market. The Roto VR cable magazine is one of the key components that enable the Roto VR chair to function. The magazine sits at the foot of the chair and provides data line and power hookups that don’t rotate when the chair spins. Roto VR’s original design featured swappable cable magazines for each type of headset. Roto VR abandoned the swappable units for a universal design that support all devices.

The new universal cable magazine supports the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, and Windows Mixed Reality HMDs. Roto VR also built support for mobile HMDs, such as the Google Daydream platform, and HTC’s upcoming standalone Vive Focus headset. The universal cable magazine also includes a power line for plugging in peripherals such as racing wheels.

Developer Tools

Roto VR also announced the Roto Arcade Portal Platform, which gives arcade operators access to short-form content with playtimes of roughly five minutes. The Roto Arcade Portal also would provide developers a platform to distribute content with a per-use licensing structure.

Roto VR said that the Roto VR chair is compatible with all PC VR games out of the box, but developers can use the company’s SDK to enable advanced features, such as the rumble system and the foot-pedals that simulate walking. The SDK would also enable developers to direct the player’s attention in cutscenes by turning them in time to see a certain sequence.

Tools For Home Users

Roto also created software for home users that creates scripted turn sequences to coincide with video files. You can control the direction of the chair with an Xbox controller and record the movements for playback later. The software will even let you create the sequence from a desktop PC and copy it over to a mobile HMD for playback through the Android Roto Movie Player.

Shipping Soon

Despite the most recent setback, Roto VR said it is ready to produce the Roto VR Chair in mass scale. The company has a manufacturing facility at the ready, and it has the components for production in stock. Roto VR is also ready to ship units rapidly with logistics and distribution partners around the world. The company said that pre-orders should be fulfilled between May and June. The company is also offering a limited time $100 discount on new orders.

 Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years. 

  • LinuxDevice
    It needs rudder pedals and left/right side mounts for optional joystick/throttle (HOTAS).
  • dabeargrowls
    I dunno, the idea of VR is to get up and move around. I'm not sure there would be enough folks wanting this chair to make the company profitable. Lets not even talk about the room required to use the chair :)