An immersive VR locomotion solution that ditches the omnidirectional treadmill design in favor of a swivel chair.
If you’ve seen the movie ‘Ready Player One’ or have been to CES or other recent gaming/technology trade show, then odds are you’re at least somewhat familiar with the concept behind omnidirectional treadmills. The device is pretty much exactly how it sounds; a customized treadmill that allows you to move in any 360° direction while remaining stationary throughout. Naturally, these unique locomotion solutions have become immensely popular among VR developers.
However, because of how bulky and inconvenient size of current models, modern omnidirectional treadmills will not only ruin the feng shui of your living room, but take a bite out of your bank account as well.
Enter Cybershoes GmbH, a company out of Vienna that wants to give you the same type of freedom of movement that comes from the omnidirectional treadmill experience, only without the treadmill. Instead, you are strapping on futuristic looking mini-skis called Cybershoes to your feet, which give you the ability to move around and even step side-to-side within VR experiences such as Fallout VR, Doom VFR, VRChat, and Minecraft-Vivecraft.
Cybershoes work by using sensors to track your steps as you glide your futuristic slippers across any soft surface. But here’s the weird thing: you’re not actually standing while you walk. Instead, you’re actually sitting on a swivel chair in which to turn and spin in complete 360°, moving throughout the experience by gliding your feet across the floor as if you were actually walking or running. It kind of looks like those office chair races down the hallway when the boss is away – only your chair isn’t going anywhere – and you’re in VR.
Yeah, you look a little goofy spinning and shuffling around in a chair with your feet barely brushing the floor, but is it any more embarrassing than participating in any other immersive experience?
One of the biggest problems with motion in modern VR experiences are the numerous reported cases of VR sickness, which is caused by conflicting signals between what your eyes and mind experience, and what your inner ear and physical body experience.
To combat this issue, VR developers created the process of ‘teleporting’, a method of movement in which users instantly transport themselves to specific locations within the experience. Teleporting seem to alleviate the issue of VR sickness, but it also removed you from that true full-body physical VR experience of running around, or exploring a VR environment.
Wearing Cybershoes would replace the need for teleporting by delivering an immersive form of locomotion that would match your real-world movements. Of course like any work in progress there are a few hiccups that still need to be addressed. One being the small number of VR users reporting that they still feel a little queasy while using the shoes.
For Michael Bieglmayer, inventor and CEO of Cybershoes GmbH, VR is an endless space that users should be able to walk throughout and explore; and the company itself sees the potential of Cybershoes beyond the gaming industry. For example, they could be used for training in industrial facilities, physical therapy, rehab, real estate tours, the list goes on.
In one case study, a multiple-sclerosis patient used Cybershoes along with aLeap Motion sensor to walk around a subway system while using her hands to push doors. The experience helped her with improvement in her movement and motor activity. She was able to move freely, without the help of others, which was also provided her with a much-needed confidence boost.
For now, the attraction of Cybershoes seems to be with gamers. When the company demoed their product at the Pioneers Festival, users stated with enthusiasm that VR experiences such as Skyrim VR were a lot more immersive with the unique shoe set-up. Cybershoes will be available on multiple platforms for maximum compatibility with the latest VR titles.
Though Cybershoes may not exactly be the futuristic, Ready Player One-style solution we’ve been clamoring for, it is definitely a STEP in the right direction (see what I did there?)
No word on how much Cybershoes will cost, but if you’re interested, Cybershoes GmbH are launching a Kickstarter in September with early bird subscribers getting some sweet perks.