Downsizing the VRGO Chair upscales its user-friendliness.
British hardware manufacturer VRGO first popped up on the virtual reality (VR) scene back in 2015 when the company launched a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign for a novel locomotion device called the VRGO Chair. Back then VR developers were still wrestling with the best way to move in VR without making most people violently ill. VRGO had the simple idea of a Bluetooth connected chair with a rounded bottom, so players could shift their weight and move their virtual selves accordingly. Now VRGO has improved upon that design with the VRGO Mini.
The same principles still apply in that players physically move themselves to walk or run in a particular direction, this time, however, the design is far more compact and storage-friendly. While the original VRGO Chair worked well to reduce nausea – providing a novel seat when not used for VR – it wasn’t padded and wasn’t particularly cheap starting at £299.99 GBP.
VRGO has seen success within the enterprise space but not so much when it comes to the consumer market. Soon to enter this field is the VRGO Mini a controller which is entirely operated by your bum (no seriously), can easily be picked up and stored, and won’t cost the same price of the headset.
They went down to the Bristol VR Lab where VRGO is based to test the VRGO Mini and it’s safe to say that even in prototype form the device impressed. As you can see from the images VRGO Mini is designed to sit on a chair – or even a sofa – whether it’s a padded office chair or a harder dining chair. It uses the same chipset found in the VRGO Chair to register the changes in direction, so a lot of the hard work has already been solved.
What you’ll notice about the design is the padded top, making for a comfortable gameplay experience as it’s like you’re already sat on a padded chair. Underneath there’s what looks like half a ball to help elevate the device and provide the much-needed rocking function so you can twist and lean. VRGO has added a new feature which wasn’t present on the original chair, haptics. Early version had four transducers which were deemed a little excessive, so there were two in the current model. Even these two proved to be quite aggressive, so the final version may include only one.
In terms of control, the VRGO Mini was very easy to use and acclimatise to. It’s like fidgeting on a seat, shifting weight slightly to start walking and then even more to run. The first test was on PlayStation VR playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim VR. Out in the fields, there was no problem running around, fighting creatures, strafing and all the other movements you’d naturally expect. Heading inside a dungeon did prove to be a little trickier when it came to tight hallways and 90-degree corners. VRGO Mini provided a slight angle shift by around 45° when twisted left or right but not a full 90° which instinctually made me want to turn my entire body instead. The only problem with this is PlayStation VR’s tracking and the cable, the latter getting in the way and the fact that most PlayStation VR players will be on a sofa.
The second demo was on Oculus Quest playing Turtle Rock Studios’ Journey of the Gods and this is where VRGO Mini really shined. The videogame is good in its own right and proved to be just as enjoyable on VRGO Mini. Coupled with a wireless headset and a full 360° tracking solution, navigating Journey of the Gods was seamless and most importantly stress-free. Some movement solutions for VR such as Cybershoes provide a natural locomotion system but after a while, players will eventually tire, with VRGO Mini that shouldn’t be an issue. Another point worth noting, depending on physical disability VRGO Mini could also prove to offer greater inclusivity.
What’s great about VRGO Mini is its simplicity. The theory is the same as 3dRudder just for your bum, plus it’s wireless, so just recharge it at the same time as your Oculus Quest. There have been several Kickstarter hardware achievements this year and VRGO Mini will soon begin its campaign for crowd-funding success. If the price is right, VRGO Mini will be ideal for those after a comfortable locomotion system.