Virtual Reality is not only gaining ground in the way we look at it, but also in the way we move through it with the Omni system. You may remember us talking about the Oculus Rift, and the strides it has helped make in bringing VR closer to a reality for gamers and VOCALOID enthusiasts. One company at E3 this year, though, is helping to take it one step farther, moving people away from a need for a keyboard to using their body as the controller. Omni, the world’s first walking controller device developed by Virtuix, will place players directly into the game to walk around, run, jump, and slide around the game environment.
Of course, the gaming system still needs motion tracking, but luckily that can be achieved with a Kinect and a set of special shoes. The shoes, which have a small ball on the sole and high friction surface, not only allow you to run on the grooved surface of the system, but also allow the Kinect to properly track your motions. Combined with the Oculus Rift, which gives a one-to-one view of where you look, it can allow for full exploration of a game without the fuss of analog stick controlled cameras.
With AR markers on items it would also allow the Kinect to read items and movements as in-game objects, so if you are playing a first person shooter you can carry your weapon with you in real life. In this case, the markers come from the RazerHydra, something previously used as the virtual hands of gamers on Nico Nico demo videos.
As you can imagine, running and walking everywhere to keep up with a fast paced game can get tiring. That’s why the Omni has the advantage of claiming their controller will also help gamers burn unwanted calories and stay fit. It is even compared to fitness equipment during a demo video, where they show off its space-saving ability with the removable upper ring. It’s not just adults that will be staying fit either, as gamers as young as ten are advertised using it, the belt that is used as stability support being fully adjustable.
Games that have been shown using this combined technology include Half-Life 2, and for Japanese audiences a game that originally started as a modded version of City 17 from the same game, About Esther. Because of its support with Occulus Rift, though, it will be able to support any games out of the box on that system, so long as they have keyboard input, and that includes Skyrim and Team Fortress 2. The way the system works is by reading your motions as gesture controls in the Kinect, which are then linked to keystroke inputs and allow you to explore the game environment as you see fit.
The creator of the device, Jan Goetgeluk, said that what he really wants is to bring the fun and amusement of videogames to everyone, not get rich off of his idea. True to his word, the Omni’s Kickstarter page says they will be offering Do It Yourself versions of the system, so that those in those in the community who think they can improve on the design have every ability to do so.
For those wanting to back the future of VR controls, the Kickstarter page is here, and will be open until July 22 for those in the US and July 23 for those in Singapore and Asia. It has already surpassed its goal, and should be announcing a stretch-goal soon.