With VR headset Oculus Rift pushing the boundaries of how players interact with their favorite games, hardware startup Virtuix hopes to add to the experience by getting gamers to sweat while they shoot terrorists or mine ore. And with strong reactions at E3 and a blockbuster Kickstarter, the Virtuix Omni may be the final piece to VR — and the best way to get players off the couch.
The Omni, which has raised a whopping $970,000 on Kickstarter (more than six times Virtuix’s original goal of $150,000) since last month, can be programmed to control a variety of in-game movements. The apparatus, which is currently selling for $429 via Kickstarter and looks like a piece of equipment you’d see at the gym, has a top belt to lock a player in place while moving and an octagonal run space that works with specially designed shoes to promote stability. The system itself is pretty large to accomodate running in all directions, but it can be broken down and placed under a bed or in a closet like gym equipment. While in the system, gamers can walk, run, turn and even jump — plenty of real-life motions to enhance the VR of the Rift.
The system is still in prototype mode, but that hasn’t stopped Virtuix and CEO Jan Goetgeluk from showing off what they already have. Virtuix presented the Omni at E3 in a live demo with the Oculus Rift and a copy of Half Life 2, with a gun peripheral to completely immerse the gamer. The buzz generated from the appearance has no doubt contributed to the success of the system — which has sold more than 750 units (including selling out both DIY and Early Bird rates) since the beginning of June.
But the system, Virtuix stressed, is also great for multiplayer gaming. Check out a new demo below, where Jan Goetgeluk and a second player use the Omni to traverse the vast landscapes of Minecraft:The YouTube ID of jQ3vQ85tR0Q?feature=player_embedded is invalid.
While it’s certainly a low-cost and flexible way to bring completely immersive VR gameplay to the living room, there are still plenty of hurdles left before the Omni can live up to its high buzz. One in particular, of course, is the success of the Oculus Rift. Another Kickstarter wonder, the Rift has continued to make a splash at consumer and trade shows across the country while announcing partnerships with consoles like the Ouya and development houses like Valve.
But, there’s no consumer release date on the horizon. Virtuix needs to time the product carefully to ensure that the extra $400 investment a gamer paid to add-on to his $300 VR device isn’t sitting disassembled until the latter finally makes its way out to shipping.
Even more concerning is the trouble with VR itself. Headsets have long been charged with inducing headaches, nausea and vertigo, and as of this point the Rift is no different. Nothing would ruin the experience like becoming disoriented while on a frictionless surface, so at this point the Omni is irrevocably tied to the experience the Rift provides to gamers. It’s a precarious position for Virtuix — nothing would feel like failure more than waiting for the next VR system to be compatible with the Omni.
Still, it’s an intriguing idea and one that will no doubt get some sedentary gamers reaching their maximum heart rate.