Virtuix, the company specialising in omni-directional locomotion solutions for VR, was back at CES 2016 and they brought with them 4 Omnis, 4 HTC Vive Pre headsets all hooked up to their new, multiplayer ‘built for Omni’ eSports game, ‘Omni Arena’.
Virtuix’s presence at CES has grown impressively over the years and this year was no exception. Their sizable stand this year sported no less than four Virtuix Omni’s in each corner, each with a brand new HTC Vive Pre headset for players to try. Why? To demonstrate virtual reality, multiplayer eSports using their locomotion solution. To this end, Virtuix had the above gear wired up to their new, multiplayer online shooter Omni Arena.
It was an opportunity for Road to VR‘s Executive Editor Ben Lang to once again get his feet on with the Kickstarted VR input device – this time, with the added bonus of also donning the new HTC Vive Pre headset – impressions of which you can find here.
Of the various passive VR treadmills I’ve tried, the Virtuix Omni has the most natural gait. I feel very comfortable walking, running, and even sprinting forward in the unit. Turning also works, but it’s quite a bit less natural, equally so, I suspect, on all passive (low-friction) VR treadmills.
Imagine you are making a slow, wide turn to the left while walking on normal ground. You achieve this by placing one foot in front of the next, and with each step you plant, your foot is slightly turned to the left. When you lift up your back foot, your body pivots ever so slightly around your planted foot until the planted foot is once again facing forward instead of left. As you bring your next foot down, it is planted slightly to the left, and the cycle repeats. You are making a small pivot at each step, which adds up to your wide turn.
This all requires friction such that your planted foot stays where it is (and in the direction it is facing) while your body makes that slight pivot. In a passive VR treadmill like the Omni, there’s very little friction under foot, and thus this action of turning feels more like walking on ice than on ground. That’s not to say it can’t be done — nor to say that you can’t get used to it or good at it — only that isn’t not as intuitive or natural as walking or running forward in the Omni.
Otherwise, the Omni works quite well, especially adjusted to the right height. The bowl shape lends itself to a natural walking or running gait. The belt is now very easy to put on, with one strap around the waist and two buckles that go under your legs like a climbing harness. Not counting slipping on the shoes, it probably doesn’t take more than a minute or two to get ready to play with the Omni. The belt and the safety ring feel extremely sturdy and there’s no doubt that the Omni is going to keep you held upright, which is really important because you want to lose yourself in VR and you need to feel safe for that to happen.
Virtuix are hard at work shipping their initial batches of ‘Pathfinder’ Omni treadmills as I write this. The company also recently embarked on an equity crowdfunding round, thanks to recent legislation changed to the US JOBS act which now allows to invest in tech startups.