The Virtuix Omni allows the user to move through a game as though he or she is moving in real life, using a low-friction surface and special shoes.
A companion product for the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset which allows the user to run, jump, duck and turn on a free-motion track pad, has smashed its funding goal on Kickstarter.
Designed for use with head-tracking virtual-reality devices like the Oculus Rift, the Virtuix Omni takes immersion to the next level: designed to replace the keyboard and mouse altogether, the system takes the form of a low-friction grooved surface that combines with special shoes with a pin on the sole to track a user's movement. As the user walks - or runs - the Omni sends standard control signals to the game, either as keyboard or joystick inputs. The result: you start walking on the Omni, and your character does the same in-game; break into a run, and so does your character. In reality, you're running on the spot as you slide over the low-friction playing surface.
By itself, the Omni isn't completely immersive: it only allows for tracking the movement of a user's feet via the slot-and-pin shoe mechanism. Once other control systems are added in, however, the system becomes increasingly like true virtual reality: an Oculus Rift headset provides both a 3D stereoscopic display as well as head-tracking, allowing the user to look in one direction and run in another; a Kinect depth-sensing camera can be tied into the Omni gesture recognition system to track whether the user is standing or crouching, leaning or jumping, and even look for arm gestures to change weapons or cast spells.
The Omni isn't new. The team behind it has been working on bringing the system to the world for two years, sharing its progress via its YouTube channel
. Now, however, the system is in the home stretch - and the company has turned to crowd-funding site Kickstarter for the cash needed to bring the prototype to production.
Virtuix is looking to start the work required to begin manufacturing in August, with a view to beginning full mass production by the end of the year. If it holds to schedule, the Omni will ship to buyers by January 2014 - although, at this point, it's always worth pointing out how few Kickstarter projects ever hit their shipping goals. To do so, however, the company has asked for $150,000 in funds, with those who want to pick up an Omni for themselves being asked for $299 for a self-assembly version or $429 for limited numbers of pre-assembled versions.
It's an offer that has seen considerable interest: despite only being live for a few days, the campaign has smashed past its funding goal with $488,474 raised from 1,273 backers at the time of writing and 47 days still left to run. The explosion of interest has led to reduced-priced 'early bird' offers running out: 50 backers were able to pick up a DIY kit for $249, while 150 backers got the assembled version for $349. Quantities of the remaining units are also limited: at the time of writing, there are 22 DIY kits and 467 assembled versions still available, after which the price will go up as backers are forced into higher tiers.
With promise of fully-immersive motion and the ability to actually get some exercise while playing - with the Omni software even tracking the calories you burn during each session - it's clear that there's plenty of interest for Virtuix's product. If you're still not convinced, however, try the below video demonstration of an Omni system being used to control Battlefield 3 or check out more videos on the company's Kickstarter page