The Virtuix Omni is a passive omnidirectional treadmill that looks like it could fill one of the last major missing pieces of the VR puzzle. The Omni, which is soon to hit Kickstarter, allows players to walk, jump, and literally sprint inside of their favorite games. Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk tells me he thinks his company has “cracked the formula” for a consumer omnidirectional treadmill that will have players more immersed than ever before.
I will admit, I was absolutely impressed when I saw that the Omni will allow players to actually sprint inside of their favorite games:
For a long time I’ve been saying that an omni-directional VR treadmill will have major implications for games. It’s one thing to hold a thumb-stick or mouse button and have your character sprint at 20 MPH for hours on end. But when you are the one who has to do the sprinting, things change fast — everything from gameplay to game pacing is impacted by how quickly your character moves.
In a game like GTA IV (Rockstar North, 2008), you constantly run from one point to the next in a huge city. With a system where you actually need to run to run, game developers had better expect a lot more walking. Suddenly those blocky pedestrians will need to high quality assets to stand up to the scrutiny of a player strolling by down the sidwalk. In a virtual world where the player really has to walk and run, maybe an entire city isn’t the best environment. Perhaps a single, high detailed, city block would be better suited to the medium.
If the Omni succeeds in its mission it will take VR gaming to a new level of immersion.
Imagine a terrifying game like Slender: The Arrival (Parsec Productions, 2013) wherein you are pursued in a dark forest by a terrifying daemon and the only way to survive is to run for your life. With a keyboard, you simply hold the ‘W’ key to sprint away from that nightmare. With a VR treadmill like the Virtuix Omni, you won’t just sprint at one set speed — you’ll have to actually run for your life. As I imagine this scenario in my head (playing Slender with the Omni, Oculus Rift, and Razer Hydra) I can almost feel the terror coursing through me. Mark my words, people are going to be screaming and sprinting for their lives, anxiously peering behind them to see if they’ve gotten away. I’ll be the first in line.
Coming to Kickstarter, Endorsed by Palmer Luckey
As reported by 3D Focus, Oculus VR Inc founder Palmer Luckey will be officially endorsing endorsing the Virtuix Omni in the forthcoming Omni Kickstarter campaign which is expected in May.
“Palmer and others (Chris Roberts, Paul Bettner) tried the Omni at SXSW in Austin this past March and greatly enjoyed it. We were allowed to film our demo night for Kickstarter, so we’ll have some fun footage to share. Palmer is endorsing the Omni for our Kickstarter campaign,” Goetgeluk told 3D Focus.
Virtuix is in the process of filming and editing their Kickstarter video materials. The Omni price has not been announced but the obvious aim to is to make it affordable for your everyday gamer.
Virtuix Omni and the Oculus Rift
Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk recently picked up an Oculus Rift developer kit and tested it with the Omni for the first time.
“I tried the Rift with the Omni this morning, a magical experience… Walking around the Tuscany villa with the Omni must have been my strongest VR moment so far. My brain started to believe I was in Italy… VR users will want and need a natural interface to experience VR. I am now more convinced than ever that the Omni will become a crucial part of VR,” he told me.
Thanks to the built-in headtracking and wide FoV, the Oculus Rift makes a natural companion for the Omni. Together they take care of two huge components of the VR puzzle. Along with the Razer Hydra or a similar system for 6DOF hand-input, the trifecta will comprise a highly immersive virtual reality system at a price that consumers can actually afford — the first time this has ever happened.