Though we’ve been covering the Virtuix Omni since the beginning, I never got a chance to slip on the shoes and try it for myself. Last weekend I finally got that opportunity and also spoke with Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk to get the latest on the omnidirectional VR treadmill.

virtuix omni virtual re treadmill

For those just joining us (welcome!), the Virtuix Omni is an omnidirectional VR treadmill—a passive unit with no moving parts that enables a player to walk, run, and jump in any direction. Virtuix raised money to produce the Omni with a spectacularly successful Kickstarter back in June that raised $1.1 million dollars; 739% of the $150,000 goal.

See All Virtuix Omni News

I met up with the Virtuix crew at Engadget Expand NY 2013 last weekend to finally try out the Omni for myself.

Currently, Virtuix is using a Kinect to do rudimentary leg tracking on the Omni. There’s no variable movement speed, no independent look/walk direction, and then there’s the sloppy tracking that Kinect is known for. The Kinect is soon to be discarded in favor of Virtuix’s own custom capacitive tracking solution, which the company says will fix all of the aforementioned Kinect woes. Developers will be able to see where your feet are, how fast they’re moving, and in what direction.

Assuming that’s all going to work, all I needed to know was whether or not the locomotion really worked… and I’m happy to report that it does.

It takes a few minutes of training to understand how to walk on the Omni, but once it clicks, you’re ready to start running around virtual worlds.

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I’m extremely excited for omnidirectional treadmills like the Omni. It’s one thing to sit in your chair with an HMD and have it look like you’re in a virtual space. It’s another thing to sprint full speed toward an enemy with virtual guns ablazing.

That’s actually the first thing I did as I tried the Omni. Pulse Rifle in hand, I sprinted right toward my first foe in Half-Life 2 (2005) and gunned him down; it was quite satisfying. Combining the emotional intensity of gaming with physical intensity will be huge for immersion (and exercise).

The Kinect tracking did make things feel goofy in the game due to its limited implementation; detecting small movements is not its forte. I’m withholding judgment on the tracking aspect until we see Virtuix’s proper capacitive foot tracking. For now I’m happy to know that the walking and running motions work.

And for those wondering, yes, it is a workout! In modern shooters today, players cover probably tens if not hundreds of miles on foot over the course of a campaign. With the Virtuix Omni, you’ll be walking each step with your character! Seriously though… Omni game developers will need to design carefully so that the player isn’t expected to have the endurance of a professional marathon runner.

The Omni is ripe with potential for the gamification of exercise and I’m looking forward to going on virtual hikes around the world from the comfort of my home.

“We Sell Omnis Every Day…”

Virtuix CEO Jan Goetgeluk, told me in our interview (above) that people are pre-ordering Omnis every day through Virtuix’s website (3:39). For a fairly expensive and niche product, that was quite surprising to me. But I’m glad to hear it, a strong developer community will be needed if the omnidirectional treadmill is going to secure its place as a staple of VR gaming.

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As with many Kickstarter projects, Virtuix has experience some schedule slippage. Goetgeluk told me that while all minor Kickstarter rewards have been shipped (except the mini-Omni), the earliest shipments of the Omni itself have moved from January to March–April (1:51).

TraVR is a game currently in development by Virtuix which will run on the Oculus Rift alone or with the Oculus Rift and the Omni. Goetgeluk told me that the game is coming along well and actually thinks that “it will be among the top games made for the Rift in general,” sounds ambitious (2:04)! Goetgeluk also mentioned that they plan to bring some new demo videos showing the Omni in use with Battlefield 4 and/or Call of Duty: Ghosts… hopefully with the new capacitive tracking.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Mageoftheyear

    I know “getting your VR legs” is a reference to overcoming simulator sickness and that in the case of the Omni the term has even more relevance, but I’m wondering how long it’ll take you to “get your real legs back” after a long gaming session?

    I don’t really follow these end-of-the-world loons who think VR will gobble up our humanity and spit out husks, but I am curious of what the long term effects will be.
    Neither do I assume all of the long term side effects will be bad.
    [Side note: all gamer’s lower bodies will now resemble a Minotaur’s.]

    It was nice to see Jan in such good spirits though. Hopefully with my next job I’ll be able to line up an event to attend out there where I can try the Omni out.
    It’ll have been worth it if I walk out of the device like an AT-AT.

    Thanks Ben.

    • Ben Lang

      What do you mean “get our real legs back”? Are you saying that too much time walking on the Omni will make us forget our normal walking muscle memory?

      • Mageoftheyear

        I mean the moment you step out of the Omni, don’t your legs feel a little wonky? :P

        • Ben Lang

          I didn’t play for an extended session, but I don’t remember them feeling strange at all.

          • Mageoftheyear

            Wow I really wouldn’t have expected that. I suppose that’s a good thing then. What the heck, I’ll just fake walking like an AT-AT!

  • monographix

    Hi! I’m new here, but’ve been reading your blog with great interest for quite some time. You do really great job.

    Anyway, although I find Virtuix Omni a fascinating piece of equipment, I have some serious health concerns with it. The way we walk since we stood up on two legs has always been from heel to toe – on flat surface for most of the time. That is how our limbs, bones and joints have always worked. I’m afraid that when exposed to different kind of strainous movement for very long periods of time or distances (some gamers play either until dawn or until they just drop) our body might react unpredictably: inflammations, some small muscle injuries or even joint degeneracy.

    I would feel better if they did some (pseudo) longitudinal tests and consulted this matter with orthopedic surgeons, physiotherapists or other specialists. It’s a very serious matter, because if something bad happens to someone thanks to lack of knowledge and tests, it will be too late and the whole idea of such treadmills will be put at risk. I hope it’s not the case, but I don’t exclude such possibility as I know people who got some serious health problems from “only” playing instruments.


    • Ben Lang

      Hey Mono,

      Thanks for joining the discussion!

      You bring up some good points; if the Omni and other omnidirectional treadmills doesn’t mimic human walking exactly, it could have unforeseen consequences. However, I don’t think we should jump to any conclusions. I think there is as much anecdotal evidence for something like this to cause someone problems as there is against it. Think about the exercises that millions of people do in gyms every day. Many are very unnatural movements. Skiing, riding a bike, rollerblading, even dance; all are very much not part of our evolutionary/locomotive heritage, but we do them without any significant concern for our health. Yes, sometimes people pull a muscle, sprain an ankle, or even break a leg, all of which are risks of any type of locomotion. I don’t see a reason why the Omni would be much different, but I agree that we won’t know until we have conclusive tests. Do we have sufficient reason to withhold such devices from hitting the market before testing them? To me the answer seems to be no. That doesn’t mean that we won’t find out later that this type of omnidirectional treadmill has an impact on people, but it doesn’t seem to be such a significant risk that it would need official testing beforehand.