Visospace, a Sydney, Australia-based team of engineers, recently launched their standing VR motion controller platform Alto100 crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo in effort to tempt developers, beta testers, and early adopters to a unique style of locomoting through VR games and experiences.

Omnidirectional treadmills work with varying success, and are usually too large and expensive for typical consumers, making such a relatively compact motion controller, that lets you stand up and lean to move though VR environments, an intriguing offer.

The Alto100 Indiegogo campaign has a crowdfunding goal of $10,000 AUD (~$7,500), and is selling the Alto dev kit for $790 AUD (~$590 USD) a piece. Much like Kickstarter, the Indiegogo campaign has a fixed goal, so the developers will only receive funds once they hit $10,000 AUD mark. At the time of this writing, Alto100 is more than half-way there with only a little over two weeks to go.

Image courtesy Visospace

Visospace is limiting the number of dev kits produced to only 100, a modest number for a new peripheral, although the company intends on releasing a second campaign later in the year with its sights set on consumers and location-based/enterprise customers.

Although still uncertain, much like the seated motion controller platform 3dRudder, which launched back in early 2016, Alto appears to incorporate an IMU sensor to tell which direction the user is leaning, and translating that into directional button presses.

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Cloudhead Games – Lessons Learned From Five Years of VR Locomotion Experiments

The dev kit includes the AA battery-operated motion controller itself, which has both cabled for PC/Console-driven VR headset and the option to connect via Bluetooth for wireless mobile VR headsets. The package also includes a USB cable, SDK, and game demos.

You can follow along with the Indiegogo campaign here.

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  • JJ

    pointless.

    You can do the same thing by finding the players offset from the center point in a given direction via the hmd and get the same results, or even using one of the rudder devices. For 800$ as well thats a joke. There are way better solution that just haven’t opened to mass funding but will soon so its funny everyone’s throwing money at just whats available and not whats actually viable.

    • Laurence Nairne

      I just dislike the crowdfunding market in tech at the moment anyway – it’s a ridiculous model of throwing significant financial support against fickle, untried, usually non-existent technology and expecting a solid result within the bizarrely optimistic time frames.

      • Visospace

        Hi Laurence. It’s not right for everyone you are right. This is our first campaign and we have thought long and hard about how to best run it. In our case, you will see from our videos and pictures that we definitely do have a tried, existent and working technology which is actually beyond the protoype stage. We just need to manufacture the physical body of the board and electronics. We have made the SDK and plugins and have tested the board with hundreds of users who have given us great feedback. We already have developers and partners who are working with us to make their own experiences. Hopefully we will succeed in the 1st campaign and deliver in time and you might then be interested in the second campaign for consumers. All the best.

        • Laurence Nairne

          Hey, my response was not a direct attack on your product at all, so sorry if it seemed that way.

          I was simply directing a response with a general comment on the state of crowdfunding tech at the moment. I acknowledge that yours is further down the road, but many are simple ‘smoke and mirror’ crap shots to get interest from VCs (“see the people want us to make this pipe dream real, so should you!”).

          • Visospace

            Thanks Laurence. Don’t worry not taken as an attack. It’s great to hear constructive thoughts and ideas. Please keep checking up on us and keep giving us feedback (put yourself on our mailing list on our website if you can – we would really appreciate that)

      • Brock Puntenney

        I disagree, crowdfunding has revitalized R&D. Crowdfunding has opened R&D up to the masses and has increased the speed at which progress is made in all areas. Eventually all this tech will be standard in a given platform. We just need to keep refining everything and eventually it will all get packaged into an unbelieveable experience that will blow minds. It’s not about any one piece of tech right now. All this tech needs to be thinking about how it will integrate with the other guy. Think of it like this we are building a star ship for deep space travel and all the systems and components are being developed by their own teams. The same can be said for VR and AR. Like I said above once all this tech is refined enough to be viable the resulting tech that combines all the pieces will be amazing.

        • Laurence Nairne

          Oh it’s great if the tech on show is actually anywhere near a prototype phase (with actually working tech and sound mechanical/electrical science behind it).

          But often the only money that has been spent is with a video and motion graphics department to sell the “vision”.

          • Visospace

            Totally agree Laurence. Lucky for us we have a fully working
            and proven solution. What we need now is field test it, refine it and listen to the developer community on what we can best do with it.

    • Visospace

      Hi JJ. Thanks for the feedback. The Alto is not about finding offset from center point. Its a brain hack that heavily relies on having a flexible platform underneath you that matches your experience. The same smooth motions done using joysticks on rigid floors make most user’s sick. The Alto works because your brain believes and accepts the experience. You will just have to wait till it is in the market and cheaper ($600 USD is only for dev kit – consumer version will be much cheaper). Then you can judge it as an experience and not just a concept. Best wishes from the Visospace team :)

      • Baldrickk

        From how it’s described, it sounds like it should feel like you are “surfing” around.
        Would that be a fair description?

        • Brock Puntenney

          I would expect it feels like surfing or snow boarding without the haptic feedback. If the Haptic feedback is done well, you in theory could mimic the footsteps of the character and trick the brain into thinking you are actually taking a step forward.

          • Visospace

            Hi Brock.
            Thanks. Yes. You can develop experiences in which you feel the hum underneath changing with the terrain and bumps and hits on a second haptic channel. It’s all up to you as a developer and really easy to develop for.

        • Visospace

          Hi Baldrickk
          Yes depending on the experience developed. The difference is that turning is not digital. You have to physically rotate on the board. That’s also what makes this device unique. It’s completely symmetrical during movement. There is no front or back. It moves you in the direction you shift your weight to.

  • Wii Fit 2.0

    • Visospace

      Hi Foxrevolution,
      It’s not the same experience. VR is all about the illusions we create in our brains. Please see above comments too. Thanks for writing.

  • NooYawker

    So, these guys need 10 grand more to finish developing this thing into a commercial product and bring it to mass production?

    • Visospace

      Hi NooYawker

      $10k (AUD) will pay for our tooling. We got the rest covered with our own resources. That is the minimum we need to get the Alto out there and more importantly build a minimum sized community of developers to support and work with. Ideally however, we would like to get all 100 Altos out. Thanks for asking.

  • Facts

    Wii board

    • Visospace

      Hi Facts. Please see above comments. Regards Visospace Team

  • Jan Ciger

    Is it just me or did these guys reinvent the Wii BalanceBoard? It doesn’t have any “haptic feedback” (= buzzer) but it works exactly the same otherwise.

    Oh and that locomotion system doesn’t work – will make you sick unless you are simulating a snowboard/skateboard/skis. Tried it many years ago already …

    If you want this, just pick up a Wii Balance Board board for a song (they often on sales because it is a dead product).

    • Visospace

      Hi Jan,

      You have the right to be sceptical for sure. Motion Sickness has been a huge problem in VR from day 1 and there are no perfect solutions. Our system definitely works in reducing/eliminating motion sickness for majority of users when compared to similar movements using joystick control. Beyond motion sickness however, we are also creating a new form of embodiment and presence in VR. The Alto is its own object in the experience. You can get off it and get back on while still wearing the headset because you always see it where it’s meant to be.

      Wii Fit? Not at all. It is not like it because the Wii Fit is a rigid device. The Alto is experienced as a floating hoverboard-like platform which your brain believes is real.

      Leaning and balance: We actually encourage users not to lean their body. Once you get used to flying around on the Alto you will find that its easier to shift your weight around the board using your stance. This usually means you are not keeping your feet close together. The best stance on the Alto is more like a wide “skateboard stance”.

      Here is a video showing how you can move around a house for architectural visualization:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zGB2V-Y_mw&index=5&list=PLY43NG_4Q1aexes5J9l3pDvRHMYDbFalf&t=0s

      • Jan Ciger

        I have never compared it to Wii Fit. The Wii Balance Board *has been* used for various games, not only the exercise ones. And snowboarding/skiing/skateboarding have been done. Sorry guys, you are a few years late here.

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxjkFph-69Q – all these are controlled by the board.

        And a better video showing the snowboarding gameplay specifically:
        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1hdKR4_oFKo

        You need to do a bit better homework next time.

        • Brock Puntenney

          I still like this in theory way better than a point and click teleport mechanic. If they can nail the haptic feedback to mimic footsteps that could be a game changer. Maybe they need to pair the alto with a pair of haptic sensors for the feet or actually sneakers to wear while playing.

          • Visospace

            Hi Brock

            Thanks for the thoughts. It’s definitely better than teleportation. We have haptics in the board under the feet and as a developer it’s up to you how to unlock the features in the experience.

        • Visospace

          Hi again

          Yes we know what’s been done with the Wii Fit and Balance board. It’s not the same experience. The control principles, the haptics and the physical experience are completely different. You will just have to try this one day for yourself. It’d be great to hear from you once you try given that this is clearly an area you have a lot of experience in and thought about. Thanks again for your feedback and all the best.

  • jarjarplinks

    It’s a bit rubbish really. For a start it goes against room scale since your planted in a small circle. And reduced accuracy and speed; being effectively blindfolded while using your feet to feel your way to hit a direction with precision. What if you need to get down on one knee, will you be fired off in a random direction?

    As others have said they’ve reinvented the Wii balanceboard. That could be great for about the *two games that will ever be made specifically with this controller in mind.

    *That’s my personal guess on the support this will get.

    • Tony

      For room scale, there is a mat at http://www.ProxiMat.net that allows you to know the center of your room and give direction…

    • Visospace

      Hi Jarjarplinks,

      Great observations (apart from the rubbish bit ;) ). The Alto is not a place to plant to. You still have roomscale experience around the Alto. You can walk around just like normal but always see the Alto where it should be. If you need to move beyond your immediate area, you go and stand on the board and can fly to where you want and get off again.

      Getting down on one knee example: True, if you kneel on one knee on the board you might tilt it and it will move but you can always get good at shifting your weight while you do it to be balanced in the centre. Or you can get off the board first and then kneel. Just depends on the context really.

      Hefty price: Definitely not the price we will go to consumer market with. The $600 USD is too expensive as you rightly note. It’s not for everyone. Developers who are paying this are helping us get the device out there are doing it because they are excited about our platform getting made and released to the world and see its potentials. This will allow us to field test the Alto and refine it and make it cheaper to produce before we get it out to the consumers. This will be done through a second campaign later in the year that will include refined content and experiences developed in the Alto100 campaign. We hope that despite your guess we won’t be DOA. After all, there are plenty of people who have been saying that about VR and AR as a whole and we need to prove them wrong. Really appreciate your feedback. Thanks and regards, Visospace Team.

      • jarjarplinks

        It’s great to see you engaging here and your reply. After further thought I see a benefit of freeing up your hand from locomotion duties, as often your moving with the thumb controller and another operation concurrently such as shooting with the same hand.

        But beyond that I still see this locomotion method to be less effective for precision, also how do you control speed if the locomotion in game can normally be varied by the thumb? And how the heck are you supposed to duck (without a fake button press duck) and move?

        I’m not convinced by your response to roomscale, it’s not natural to operate locomotion only in the centre of your play space, then step off the platform for roomscale, then to go back to the platform to control the locomotion again. In VR your using both locomotion and the play space around you at the same time, not as separate operations. The compromise of using the Alto in how you describe reduces immersion.

        I just don’t see a universal application of VR locomotion presented here which means only specific titles can make good use of the platform comfortably, but the majority of other titles including ones that combine stretches of locomotion and rapid body movements would be impeded by using this platform. The Alto is a different way for controlling locomotion in VR, but If it’s not a better way to operate locomotion in VR and is only suitable for a restricted number of titles then it’s dead in the water from the get go.

  • gothicvillas

    Room scale is what makes vr great. Not sure where this fits.

    • Visospace

      Hi Gothicvillas,
      Totally!! we love room scale and it is most definitely how VR should be. But no room scale will go beyond a few meters for home environments. The Alto allows you to have room scale as usual but in your VR view you will see the Alto where it is physically. You can then walk to it (within the experience) and stand on it. When you do, it wakes up as a locomotion platform (like a hoverboard) and you can use it to get beyond this limited space without having to teleport. Get to where you want and you can get off again and have more room scale in the new space. Or keep flying around the virtual world. Imagine Google Earth or RecRoom or VRChat or AltspaceVR or Fallout or many other experiences where you can move in freely! Thanks for the comment. All the best. Visospace Team

  • CazCore

    looks like it’s just a giant thumbstick that you stand on. which would barely do anything to curtail motion sickness.

    • Visospace

      Hi CazCore

      That’s a cool concept! We should call it a giant thumbstick for your body and see how that goes! We have user tested the Alto with our own experiences with over 400 users. Many of the demos have been to people who hadn’t tried VR ever! It’s super interesting to put someone in VR and Alto at the same time. They are simultaneously wowed by the visual world they embody and their ability to move through it taking for granted that smooth motion in VR is normally a big problem. With all the testing we have done, we have found less than 5% of testers report anything akin to ‘motion sickness’. It’s all about how you trick the brain. The brain-hack is what we have studied and tackled and it really works. If we are successful and get it out there, hope you can try it one day for yourself. Thanks for your thoughts and all the best. Visospace Team

      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1f0aafb859c4e8cd42d209099178dc8365343e05664100f82d266d0637ddd6c8.png

      • CazCore

        i can understand not wanting to share this alleged secret sauce that you allegedly have, but unless you care to explain it, i will just think this is typical concept-only (no reality) based marketing. and that it does nothing to solve motion sickness. i’ve never seen any indication that anyone actually understands what causes motion sickness, and how to bypass it. with 1 exception. the shrinking of FOV. but there are other ways to bypass it. the known methods that are effective seem to be just stumbled upon. Oculus certainly doesn’t know still. its abundantly obvious from their numerous long publications on the subject.

      • CazCore

        there is 1 way i could see this being effective to combat motion sickness (altho it’s an annoying way to control your character, if you are doing it that way). which is nothing like typical thumbstick controls.

      • CazCore

        and that 1 way i’m thinking of wouldn’t need the disc/platform at all. :)

        • Visospace

          Sounds like you are the one with the secret sauce. The method with us works consistently across users. We just exhibited at CeBIT in Sydney and had over 100 people come try and only 2 people said they felt sick. We will leave the independent research on how the Alto works to the Universities. We are working with some reaserchers in Australia to study this. In the mean time, we respect that you have reservations about the concept. You will just have to try it one day if you get a chance. Keep an eye out for us and come say hello if you see us at a conference.

  • jarjarplinks

    It’s great to see you engaging here and your reply. After further thought I see a benefit of freeing up your hand from locomotion duties, as often your moving with the thumb controller and another operation concurrently such as shooting with the same hand.

    But beyond that I still see this locomotion method to be less effective for precision, also how do you control speed if the locomotion in game can normally be varied by the thumb? And how the heck are you supposed to duck (without a fake button press duck) and move?

    I’m not convinced by your response to roomscale, it’s not natural to operate locomotion only in the centre of your play space, then step off the platform for roomscale, then to go back to the platform to control the locomotion again. In VR you’re using both locomotion and the play space around you at the same time, not as separate operations. The compromise of using the Alto in how you describe reduces immersion.

    I just don’t see a universal application of VR locomotion presented here which means only specific titles can make good use of the platform comfortably, but the majority of other titles including ones that combine stretches of locomotion and rapid body movements would be impeded by using this platform. The Alto is a different way for controlling locomotion in VR, but If it’s only suitable for a restricted number of titles without causing the user to compromise then it’s dead in the water from the get go.

    • Puya Abolfathi

      Hi. Thanks for the great observations. I’m a cofounder of Visospace and I’m hearing you about your conserns.

      Is the Alto the ultimate locomotion platform in VR? In its current form not yet perhaps. But the same can be said of all methods out there and many of the other devices are still being used and continuing to improve.

      Depending on how you develop for the Alto as locomotion platform it can be quite versatile. Controlling speed and precision is a skill that you learn to pick up. It’s not currently great for making really sharp turns for example but the movement paradigms are still being refined and will be further worked out by developers who experiement with the really open SDK.

      Reading the comments here I can see that many people have reservations about new peripherals and methods in VR. I guess we have all seen crazy ideas come and go. But the Alto is not an idea. It’s a fully working and tested product that we are refining. We have spent the last year of our lives throwing our time, energy and passion into this endeavor. We have talked to 100s of people and listened to suggestions and taken feedback on board. All I can ask readers and commenters here is: please judge the platform on your experience once you get a chance to try it. I hope you will get to give it a go in a conference or an expo in the future but better yet, hope you will support us and get an Alto dev kit and work with us. Thanks again for all the interest. Puya

      • jarjarplinks

        I’m afraid I’m just not convinced; as a enthusiast VR gamer with a current Steam library of 186 VR games how this device would improve my VR experiences. I can’t name a single title that this controller would be a beneficial advantage in when the user is sacrificing a substantial amount of natural moments and poses by being perched on a small platform.

        If developers have to work their own titles around these issues then you’re expecting quite a lot goodwill to support an unknown quantity. And to appeal to the consumer it will need to supported by the biggest releases to be noticed.

        I still wish you well and every success and appreciate the feedback from you which demonstrates your commitment to the product.

        • Puya Abolfathi

          Thanks for the feedback and well wishes. I still feel that I/we haven’t adequately communicated how the device works exactly and why it is worth making. It would be so good to get you to try the board some day and hear again your thoughts after the experience. But I totally respect your reservations and it’s important to hear it given your vast experience witg VR. Please drop me an email on puya@viso.space if you accept my genuine attempt to hear and learn from your perspective. We are truly here because we believe in what we are doing and not because we are after gimmicks or the next VR trick. We also have much bigger plans for interaction in VR more related to hands and haptics. Get in touch if you are interested in hearing more. Best regards Puya

          • JJ

            I agree with Jarjar on this one here. You lose a lot and only gain a little with the alto.

  • I still can’t understand why it removes motion sickness

    • Puya Abolfathi

      There is much research into the physiology, cognitive and psychological layers underlying motion sickness. Unfortunately there isn’t much out there that looks at all the layers wholistically. The Alto can reduce/remove motion sickness if it is used properly. We are still learning ourselves what works best and what doesn’t. But we are probably best equipped at the moment to present a best practice guideline for reducing discomfort during locomotion. This is the formula:

      – the Alto is presented in the experience as a real floating object you can stand on.

      – when you are on the Alto it propels you in the direction you lean it (note: lean it, not your body – this is achieve by shifting your center of mass on the flexible tilting board)

      – the Alto and you are a physics body with mass , intertia momentum. This is probably the most important criteria. You can build up speed due to the force that the Alto generates on the body. Using the SDK the developer of experiences can tweak all these settings but they should ensure natural physics is experienced – ie no instantaneous movement

      – haptic feedback under the feet coming to the board reinforces the experience suggesting to the brain that there is movement underneath. Again, this is customized by developers in their experiences that they make.

      We believe that the reason Motion sickness goes away is that the illusion of movement is accepted by the brain even if there is no matching inner ear / vestibular activity. The cognitive/psych layer seems to inhibit the lower lever physiological reflexes that normally lead to nausea.

      It’s a hypothesis that needs to be studied independently at research labs. But this is what we believe it happening. The proof currently is in our own user testing (400 and counting).

      Please get in touch if you want to chat more.

      Best regards. Puya

  • CoffeeBuzz

    Interesting concept. I think it may be useful for skating around to a key game location then stepping off to move and interact.. then getting back on it to move to a new location of interest.. But at that price point. it is dead in the water in my opinion. Controllers have to be 1/3rd the price of the console (in this case your VR headset, setup.. NOT PC) i would pay 200 to try it. But not a penny more. Sorry guys. I could make something similar in my garage. Someone mentioned the WII-Balance board.. and yea you could put that on a pivoting and rotating base.. and there you go.

    • Puya Abolfathi

      Hi CoffeeBuzz

      I actually love your answer and think you are on the right wavelength for what we are doing:

      – price point WILL be around the 200 dólar point in the long run. It might be more like $250 initially while we sort out manufacturing, quality, warranty and supply chain but prices always come down with economy of scale. So please hang in there and keep an eye out for us. The $600 is for devs in this first campaign who have the means and are willing to support us to get the device road tested and ready for consumers at a cheap price. Any devs out there who demonstrates interest and commitment to what we are doing who can’t afford the 600 can get in touch and we can see what we can do to reduce the cost for them.

      – could you make a similar device in your garage? Sure. It was definitely not rocket science to build this. But the idea wasn’t the important bit. It took us 2 weeks to make the first prototype platform and a simple experience for it. But it’s taken us 8 months to refine it, user test it, understand how it works well and how it doesn’t and turn the design into something that can be future proof, mass manufactured and hopefully supported by the industry. That’s something that takes a community of people and supporters to achieve and not a garage. So I guess what we are asking here and why we keep coming back to reply to people even after negative comments is to build that community and learn from the feedback.

      Thanks for being a part of it and please get in touch if you want to learn more puya@viso.space

  • Sandy Wich

    I’m so glad I don’t get motion sick like everyone else seems too. I can drunk VR skyrim for 5 hours straight doing all sorts of stupid stuff.