VR treadmills are usually pretty bulky, expensive, and have a questionable utility outside of the initial wow moment of seeing one in action. Vienna-based Cybershoes however are aiming to get your feet into the game with a pretty simple concept that is less silly than it appears on first blush.

I got a chance to pop into the Cybershoes booth at this year’s Gamescom where a decent crowd had already formed around the VR users strangely moving their feet back and forth while seated.

Strapping the weighty plastic soles onto my sneakers, which were secured tight with snowboarder style quick straps, it was my turn to play a couple of minutes of Doom VFR (2017) on HTC Vive and peddle my feet, spinning the barrel-shaped wheel either backwards or forwards. From a physical standpoint, the results were pretty positive, as I naturally moved my feet as if I were running in place, spinning the little wheel underneath with ease.

 

While it was a simple setup experience, and moving forward and backwards was a breeze, the experience does leave something to be desired. Because you’re sitting on a swivel-style bar stool, if you want to turn in VR—assuming the game doesn’t support so-called snap-turning—it means you have to physically rotate yourself with your feet to face the direction you want to go, which isn’t great for when you have to make quick turns.

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That said, you will need some way to suspend the cable over your head so it doesn’t get tangled around you during play. The demo space was outfitted with a makeshift cable guide re-purposed from IKEA’s Regolit lamp holder, which the company suggests using; they’ll also be suggesting a few chair models when the project makes its way to Kickstarter in September.

Image courtesy IKEA

As for the shoe’s construction, I found them to be really quite sturdy. Milled from a single block of conductive plastic, the shoes are designed to both hold up to 100kg (~220lbs) and eliminate static discharge—something that’s extremely important, as you are essentially rubbing your feet on the carpet and potentially storing static charge throughout your game session.

The padded straps are essentially plucked from snowboarding boots, which allow for easy cinching and release—a good thing, considering you probably shouldn’t walk around your house with the things still on your feet for fear of faceplanting. Enterprise users will also likely appreciate the fact that they don’t have to strap unwitting first-timers into anything elaborate, or require users to wear special low-friction shoes like in some VR treadmills.

Image captured by Road to VR

The shoe’s single barrel-style wheel seemed to feature interior ball bearings as well, the same way a skateboard wheel spins effortlessly. Cybershoes CEO Michael Bieglmayer told me that the company at first wanted to go with a laser setup, like those found in computer mice, to reduce the chance of mechanic wear even more, but the variability of user’s ground texture essentially made this a non-starter.

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In the end, the idea is essentially to reduce VR-related discomfort while making things more immersive by letting you ‘walk’ in VR. Cybershoes basically accomplishes this, and appears to be well on its way to full production, as the version I tried at Gamescom was a near-final prototype. While Cybershoes aren’t a perfect solution, the device makes a compelling case for lighter, space-saving locomotion controllers—one that checks many of the same blocks as VR treadmills at this point. Starting at less than $300, it may be just at the right price-point for VR enthusiasts with less square footage than disposable income too.

The company’s Kickstarter is slated to arrive in September which ought to shed more light on the project’s funding tiers, final price and delivery date.

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  • Molmir

    Can you strafe with it?
    Because from the look of the barrel sensor under the shoe, it seems like it is monodirectional only. And even if it were made omnidirectional, trying to strafe would probably cause the chair to rotate, resulting in an ingame rotation instead of an ingame strafe.

  • brandon9271

    $300? Meh.. i don’t see it.

    • Jerald Doerr

      Yeah at that price why not just use two give trackers and socks.. Then you could strafe.

      • Wayne Hinkel

        Exactly! I had the same thought. Just need the right software routine to take steps when you walk in place, and turn as you do.

      • Da Mo (JFlash)

        or a couple of wireless mice (the computer version)

  • HybridEnergy

    A walking device….that forces you to sit. Uhhhhhh one step forward and two steps back tech. lol

    • Trevor Jones

      1 step forward .. then i sit because im tired and just want to relax

  • Tony

    I think the 3D rudder looks easier to use, but I like the concept of it!

  • I’ve tried it at Gamescom as well: I had some problems for instance when running and then rotating fast while lifting my knees: during the rotation moment, I continued walking in the game, even if I was just rotating. So, there are things to be fixed.
    But I agree that they were not bad, I found funny walking while staying seated :)

  • nejihiashi88

    i think an exercise stepper like this http://a.co/d/2PvOS2S
    is much better, you walk in same place you stand on without worrying about a large space.
    the only thing they need implement is walking through it and change it to fit vr.

    • apoc1138

      How would you turn?

      • nejihiashi88

        it can be with a touchpad or analog, or what i think is better by making the stepper tilt right and left a little bit when you lean towards sides.

        • apoc1138

          so you would replace physically turning and pressing a button for forwards/backwards/strafe, with physically sort of walking forwards and pressing a button for strafing/backwards/turning

          of those two options I would rather keep turning as a physical option if you are going to have to have buttons for something, turning/looking is not the thing I would ditch first

          • PJ

            absolutely, physically moving your body, such as turning is vital for VR.

    • VRgameDevGirl

      Interesting. I have one of those at work under my stand up desk. Good idea. Just remove the tension and add something to help u balance and it would work pretty good. Great idea!

    • Trevor Jones

      nah that would be terrible. this cybershoe idea is actually pretty good. Hear me out. I got fallout vr, but I realized that these games are awesome, but I mostly just standing there pushing the joystick to move. Not immersive at all and after 20 minutes you miss the relaxation of just sitting and exploring. So I sat down in my office chair and while playing a realized that it was quite good to be able to spin around and move in whatever direction i was going, and it was super releaxing to boot. Howerver if only i could use my feet to move instead of pushing the joy stick. This product allows one to be seated and yet move your feet in a natural stepping motion. Im sure after a while your brain might trick you into thinking you are actually walking and turning with your actual body. Ive tried these other solutions like walking in place, and they are shit. And from what i hear from people who have used omni’s you feel like you are sliding with skis on so not much better. I like this idea. I agree though i cant see why this would be 300. Im guessing 100 bucks max

  • I think this might be the dumbest VR peripheral I’ve seen yet. I’ll have to double check, but it’s up there.

    • TigerSpy

      For $30 it looks cool to pick up and try. For $300 GTF outta here.

  • PJ

    You know what, this is bloody stupid, yet close.

    I see the future of VR locomotion in footwear, or at least something that gages in how fast your moving your feet on the spot, and the direction in which your feet are pointing to determine speed and direction of movement, this will also reduce motion sickness in players. And put to bed the ridiculous notion that VR needs a stupidly big treadmill that users will need to store away when it’s not being used.

    • Andrew Jakobs

      Problem is, a lot of the motion sickness is more due to people not adjusting the headsets correctly, and a lot of the headsets don’t have to controls to adjust them correctly (not able to set the focus for instance).
      But treadmill kinda devices will be the only real way to do locomotion correctly, as it will also protect you.

      • PJ

        VR needs to accessible to all to take off, treadmills add to the overall expense of VR, and if/when treadmills become the main form of VR locomotion, they will likely be more expensive then the headset itself (I’m ignoring the ones already in production of course) Adding to that, a treadmill then needs putting away and storing when it’s. It being used. These two factors alone are reasons why I just don’t think a treadmill is the answer.

        • Andrew Jakobs

          It’s just not possible to do a decend walking locomotion without a treadmill based solutions, you’ll need something to keep you at one spot, so you’ll need a setup which prevents you in every direction walking away from the spot. These shoes aren’t the solution, you’re still sitting and you can’t strafe. I still think something like the Katwalk is the closest you’ll get to a good solution for walking locomotion (and you can keep it in your room by just changing the VR set to a hanging chair for when you’re not using it).

  • Mateusz Pawluczuk

    I like there’s more and more locomotion solutions out there but these should be cheaper, considering ODTs start at $500.

  • MW

    Basically they glued old fashion ‘ball’ mice to soles. Hmm… Genius or stupid?

    • Jerald Doerr

      At least if they did that it would work correctly… But no… What do they do? They put two miniature steamrollers with no steering on the bottoms of your feet?????

  • sebrk

    I like the basic idea but not at that price and certainly not when strafing is not in the picture. Hopefully that will be a stretch goal or something.

  • tomer gilron

    Why not just put 2 old roller mouse devices on the sole of your shoe?
    Then you can also strafe, right?

    • Jerald Doerr

      Yeah or upside down trackball..

  • fuyou2

    FUYOU2, that’s all I have to say.

  • Andrew Jakobs

    $300 is way too much for this. And sadly here in the Netherlands you can only get the Ikea regolit lampshade, not the stand… damn ikea…

  • Tony

    Maybe a ball like older computer mice would allow for strafe and multi-directional movement?

  • nipple_pinchy

    Analog stick “smooth movement” and arm-swing locomotion make all of this stuff redundant. I’m all for innovation, but stuff like this and VR treadmills will never be something to grow VR in the consumer market.

    • JJ

      those are some very ignorant comments…

  • This is a try before you buy.