Joining longstanding names Virtuix and Cyberith, Kat Walk hopes to be the newest VR treadmill option on the block. The system differentiates itself with an open design that suspends users from above instead of using a support ring around the waist.
KatVR, a Chinese VR company founded in 2013, launched their Kickstarter campaign for the Kat Walk VR treadmill earlier this month. They’re hoping to raise $100,000 to continue production of the unit which they aim to deliver in April of 2016 at the earliest. At just over $75,000 raised so far, the crowdfunding campaign is well on its way to reach its goal with 29 days remaining.
The Virtuix Omni and Cyberith Virtualizer are two omnidirectional treadmills aimed at the VR space; both use a similar design of a support structure surrounding the user which holds them up with a harness mounted on a waist-level ring that also provides resistance for the walking action.
KatVR has taken a different approach, aimed at a more open design, which runs the support structure up just one side of the unit and then connects to the user from above. The company says that open design means more space for natural arm movements and also a lower chance of bumping into support struts while running. KatVR also notes that the current prototype is larger than the final product.
While the Omni and Virtualizer both use low-friction surfaces to allow users’ feet to slide while walking, Kat Walk uses special shoes with rollers to simulate the friction of walking. The company says that this approach helps create a more natural gait with less training time needed before you’re comfortable walking on the unit.
Kat Walk also offers something totally out of left field: a fashionable “Swing Chair” which can be attached to the support structure for when you’d rather sit comfortably for VR gaming experiences. Not the worst idea I’ve ever seen, but at $149 I think I’d opt to simply pull up a chair next to the system.
Four major factors will determine the widespread success or failure of Kat Walk, just as they will any other VR treadmill:
- Gait: Does it really feel natural to walk in the system?
- Walking Quality: Does the unit effectively translate your own walking motions into in-game movement consistently and without significant latency?
- Practically: Can it be broken down and shipped at a reasonable cost? Is it sizeable to be reasonably placed in the home?
- Price: The company is selling the basic system on Kickstarter for $599 with an additional undisclosed shipping cost.
We’ve got our eye on Kat Walk and hopefully one day soon will have our feet on it to answer the questions above.