Colton Jacobs is Product Manager at Virtuix and an expert in the field of virtual reality and locomotion systems. Their product, the Virtuix Omni (Fig. 1), is a virtual reality platform that let's you freely move in any direction. Combined with sensors, audio support and 3D glasses like those from Oculus Rift and you have the closest thing to a holodeck that can be made right now (see Consumer Electronics Take User Interfaces Beyond Your Fingertips).
I had a chance to talk with Colton about the Omni and how it works.
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Wong: What is the Virtuix Omni?
Jacobs: The Virtuix Omni is the first virtual reality interface for moving freely and naturally in your favorite game. The Omni will free gamers from passive, seated gameplay, unleashing the full potential of virtual reality gaming with the Oculus Rift and future head mounted displays. Gaming on a keyboard, mouse or gamepad while seated pales in comparison to the intense experience and fun that comes from actually walking, running, and jumping in games.
Wong: How does the Omni work?
Jacobs: The base of the Omni (Fig. 2) is a grooved, low-friction surface with an integrated tracking solution built into the base of the unit. This will track the users footsteps and translate that motion into almost any PC game or application. Users walk naturally—and the result is a natural interface that works with any game or application that uses keyboard input. Walk, run, jump, crouch, or strafe—movements mapped to the keyboard can be mapped to natural motion with the Omni.
Wong: What kind of sensors does the Omni use and what kind of feedback does it provide to an application?
Jacobs: The Omni will be using capacitive sensors for the tracking solution. This will provide for 360 degree tracking for walking, running and jumping.
Wong: How does the Omni interface to a computer?
Jacobs: The Omni will plug into a computer via a USB cable. A simple driver will need to installed before the first use. It is a very simple setup. Then the Omni will be replacing your keyboard for the movement controls in the game.
Wong: How does the Omni work with virtual reality goggles like Oculus Rift?
Jacobs: The Omni can be used with almost any display, including virtual reality goggles, curved projection displays, and flat panels. There is no integration needed. The Omni will simply replace the keyboard for movement controls, and the display will operate just as it would with a normal keyboard.
Wong: Does the Omni benefit from using other sensors like Sixense’s STEM System?
Jacobs: Systems like the Sixense STEM will be a fantastic addition to the virtual reality experience. The Omni will bring your legs into the virtual world, and the STEM system will bring your arms and hands in as well. The more of your body that can be in the virtual world, the more complete the immersion. The Omni can be used with almost any handheld controller, but systems like the STEM are ideal for the virtual reality experience.
Wong: The Omni was started via Kickstarter. How can I get one now?
Jacobs: We are currently taking preorders on our website: www.shop.virtuix.com. There you can preorder an Omni package for $499 with an estimated shipping time of March 2014.