Virtuix Partners With HTC, Announces 'Arizona Sunshine' Integration For Omni

Virtuix announced that it has formally partnered with HTC so it can improve its hardware--the futuristic Omni treadmill that lets you walk, run, and strafe with 360-degree freedom of movement tracking--and the VR experiences to accompany it. The company also announced that Vertigo Games will add Omni support to its popular Arizona Sunshine game, which should give the relatively few people who own the system a little more to play.

Arizona Sunshine is all about trying to survive a zombie apocalypse by scavenging for supplies, rounding up other survivors, and shooting the undead until they go back to being dead-dead. It offers a variety of movement options already: Vertigo Games released an update in January to add thumbstick and touchpad locomotion to the game's existing teleportation-focused locomotion. Now you'll have yet another movement option to try out.

That is, of course, if you've managed to get an Omni for yourself. Virtuix raised $1.1 million on Kickstarter to develop the product in 2013. Pre-production units reached some backers in December 2015; other backers were supposed to receive production units around November 2016. The company then canceled pre-orders from international customers and offered U.S. backers full refunds because of the unexpectedly high shipping costs.

Omni sales are currently limited to commercial entities such as VR arcades, game centers, shopping malls, and the like. Those sales require software--who'd want to pay for a movement-tracking VR system without any supported games? Virtuix has filled the gap a bit with its own titles, such as the Omni Arena esports FPS, but it's up to other developers to incorporate the Omni SDK into their VR experiences going forward.

Arizona Sunshine could be a natural fit for the system. What's scarier than teleporting away from zombies? Having to run away from them with your own two feet. Being more directly in control of your own movement could make VR more immersive. That could explain why another game to recently include Omni support, The Bellows, is all about scaring you. (Another title, Quell 4D, is a fast-paced shooter that uses Omni for free movement.)

Virtuix also included an update on the Omni's production. "Our production continues at a steady pace without hiccups," the company said on Kickstarter. "In addition to driving forward our production and shipping output, our main focus now is lining up awesome games for you to play." That isn't a lot for backers to go on, but if you're still waiting for your Omni, you can perhaps take comfort in knowing at least a few games will support it.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.

  • Jeff Fx
    It'll be cooler if they support a treadmill that people can actually buy. Arizona Sunshine is probably good enough to drive hardware sales. It was one of the games I recently demoed for a friend, leading him to buy a gaming PC and a Vive.
  • cryoburner
    19513638 said:
    The company then canceled pre-orders from international customers and offered U.S. backers full refunds because of the unexpectedly high shipping costs.

    Ouch. Looks like yet another failed kickstarter. The US shipping costs ended up being $242, which is around three to four times their original $60-$90 estimate, and production costs apparently ended up being around three times their original estimates as well, meaning the device will be well over $1000. They don't even list a price for the main unit on their site anymore, requiring commercial purchasers to contact them, but considering that the harness sells on it's own for $250 plus $20 shipping, and a pair of tracking pods is $150 plus $20 shipping, the ~200 pound platform must have had its price greatly increased as well. The required shoes are also not included with the main package, and are another $100, plus $12 shipping per pair.

    On the positive side, they did offer refunds to their backers, plus 3% interest per year. That was apparently paid out of the $8 million or so that they got from other investors though, and I question whether they will manage to keep the company afloat in the long term. Is there really that much of a market for mall and arcade installations? Arcades haven't exactly been thriving the last couple decades, and this is not like the early 90s where people were more willing to pay $20 to experience VR for 10 minutes. These same VR headsets are now available for home users at a relatively obtainable price, and as the cost of VR continues to drop and the install-base grows, fewer and fewer people will be willing to pay a premium just to be able to slide around on a stationary platform for a few minutes, in games they could be playing at home.

    Really, for arcade-style installations, I think it would be much more interesting to give people wireless headsets and set them loose as a group in a large room, much like laser tag. That might also be more cost effective, since it wouldn't necessarily require much additional hardware aside from the HMDs and motion controllers, nor would it require as much staff interaction to help people suit up into their multi-point harnesses, and lock them into a platform over a slippery surface. And most importantly, being able to naturally move around a large open environment is not something that can be easily replicated at home. The Virtuix Omni only offers "semi-natural" movement though, and is perhaps better suited to a household environment.
  • t1022k
    All the Omni does is make walking in place more comfortable and ergonomic. You're still not propelling yourself forward as you do when actually walking. It's pretty much a waste of space in my opinion. I'd prefer a large room and room-scale with some nice foam flooring over an Omni because you retain one-to-one tracking.

    More and more games are beginning to feature run/walk-in-place locomotion as an option for locomotion, and I think this feature in a nice room works very well.