What It's Like To Wear VR Shoes

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What It's Like To Wear VR Shoes
January 4, 2017

See that guy up there in the lead image? That's not me. That guy has what they call in the industry "range of motion" and is "good at kicking." When I strapped on Cerevo's Taclim VR shoes, I felt like an old man. My kicks were barely inches off the ground because I was scared of losing my balance in these weird, bulky, raised sandals, and I had to shuffle in place to "walk" in the simulation.

 

The sandals connect to your VR setup, PC or mobile (I tested with a Gear VR), over Bluetooth or Sub-GHz wireless, and have 9-axis motion sensing. That's accelerometer, gyroscope, and geomagnetism. I can't speak to the quality of tracking, though, because Cerevo's tech demo was a simple "make a motion enough like a kick and it'll probably register as a kick in the demo." This was the furthest possible thing from a 1:1 experience, and it kind of sucked.

But while I came to Cerevo's booth expecting to experience foot motion tracking, and to perhaps discover within myself a great love of kicking things, the surprise was the tactile feedback the shoes provide. During the demo you walk (shuffle, really) over various surfaces like metal, wood, snow, and poison, and receive tactile vibrations from the shoes. Not all the surfaces felt distinctive, but with wood I really felt the "creak," and with snow I really felt that distinctive powder crunch. Not perfect, but kind of cool.

 

Worth a lot of dollars to add to my VR setup? No, probably not. And to be honest, even if they were cheap and offered excellent motion tracking, there's something about foot sensations that kind of took me out of the VR immersion, instead of adding to my experience. But hey, I felt virtual snow through some clunky VR sandals today, and that's a good day in my book.

 

The Taclim system, which also includes (not-very-notable) handheld controllers, should be available sometime in the second half of this year, but the target price I was quoted was over $1,000, so it looks like a real niche device.

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