The Omni could make free-roaming virtual reality possible
by Ian Steadman
Virtual reality headsets might seem like a good idea, but attaching a small screen over each eye doesn’t really make it feel like you’re in the game. It might just give you a headache. But an onmi-directional treadmill might just get us that bit closer to a gaming environment on a par with the holodeck from Star Trek.
Virtuix’s Omni works with the Oculus Rift VR headset (that we’ve covered before on Wired.co.uk), whose high-quality has been endorsed by Epic Games and Valve’s Gabe Newell. After a period of development Virtuix is preparing to launch a Kick-starter campaign to fund commercial production of the Omni, and the team has posted videos of the Omni and the Oculus Rift working with games like Team Fortress 2 (accompanying this story) and Skyrim.
The Omni looks a little bit like an adult-sized version of a baby walker, and stops the user running off the edge with a harness attached to a bar at waist height (which can be adjusted). And running means running, too — the demonstration videos show people working up what looks like a real sweat. Strafing, jumping and sidestepping are also possible.
“Applications of omni-directional movement in virtual reality stretch far beyond gaming: training and simulation, fitness and exercising, virtual tourism, virtual trade shows and events, virtual meet-ups and multi-person adventures, virtual workplaces, virtual museums, physical therapy, VR architecture, VR concerts, etc.,” Virtuix states on its site. “The possibilities are limitless. Virtual reality is the future.”
The Omni also works with Kinect, so the game knows where to aim the camera as the user turns their head, and you can even play it without the Oculus Rift if you haven’t got one and just want to use a normal screen. But you won’t even have to buy a Kinect — Virtuix plans to ship the Omni with its own built-in tracking software.
There’s no word on price yet, but Virtuix claims that the Omni is compatible with “any game that uses keyboard and mouse input.”
Just don’t try a rocket jump.