The Virtuix Omni device has recently received a minimum pre-order price point of $499. Yes, you heard that rather whopping figure correctly. But, for the pinnacle of virtual reality video gaming, maybe it’s worth it. I’ve seen the videos; it does, indeed, look deserved of much consideration. But what has this got to do with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)? We take a look, a little bit later on in the article.
Firstly, for those not clued into this latest gadget (and, considering how frequently the technological landscape changes these days, you’d certainly be forgiven), the Virtuix Omni is akin to a treadmill. The user’s waist is firmly strapped into the device, using a highly malleable belt, to ensure you don’t run into the china cabinet when back at home. Tom’s Hardware, a highly experienced group of technology specialists, suggest the support ring, which encloses the player, is not absolutely mandatory; however, it is highly recommended the safety feature remains on, at least temporarily, as a person’s proprioception does become compromised by the goggles.
The machine also requires the user applies a pair of specially optimized shoes, which make contact with the Virtuix’s grooved surface.
Once secured, the gamer is able to move in an omnidirectional manner. As you would expect, the device is merely simulating real walking, as the equipment mimics normal human gait and then feeds the resulting signal back to the computer. However, gamers are able to perform jumps, strafes, running, walking and ducking.
Two different product packages are up for grabs, the affordability of which depends upon whether you own a bank, or not. The “Standard” package includes the following bundle of components:
- Omni platform
- A pair of custom-built shoes
- Safety guide/belt
- Software and hardware tracking system
On the other hand, the “Duel” variant provides twice the fun, shipping with two Omni platforms and three sets of custom shoes. This will set you back an eye ball-popping $1,019. Sadly, this price also neglects to factor in the expense of the virtual reality (VR) headset, manufactured by Oculus, which retails independently.
However, since the current pre-order price of the Oculus VR headset lies at $300, this would enable enthusiast video gamers to acquire a comprehensive virtual reality setup for under a thousand dollars (unimaginable 5 to 10 years ago). As things stand at the moment, therefore, this Virtuix Omni/Oculus combination could very well spell the pinnacle of video gaming. And this is before even discussing the organization’s involvement with NASA.
Many of you may be asking, would it really be sensible to spend this much on a gaming kit? The developers of the Virtuix Omni hint at its far-reaching potential. As specified by the company’s own website testimonial, the Omni may be used for:
“… training and simulation, fitness, virtual tourism, virtual tradeshows and events, meet-ups and multi-person adventures, virtual workplaces, museums, VR architecture, VR concerts.”
The group is not exaggerating either. Engadget recently produced an article, describing the collaboration between NASA and the developers behind the virtual reality headsets and treadmills. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory created a stereoscopic image of Mars, and generated a 3-dimensional map of the planet’s terrain, captured by orbiting satellites. Using this world, the team then invested in the virtual reality technology, which granted them the ability to “walk” across Mars.
Speaking to Engadget, Human Interfaces Engineer Victor Luo mulled over the practical benefits of such immersion:
“Instead of looking at a two-dimensional image… they would know [for example] that the rock is to the left of the rover. They can collaboratively look at the space and say, hey, we should go up to the right of the canyon… It makes sense to use something like this for a more immersive and more natural experience.”
So, the Virtuix Omni has heaps of potential, as a pioneering aid to NASA, as well as a solid gaming experience. This may very well be the pinnacle of virtual reality and a sign of many more technological marvels to come. Just make sure you have plenty of space to game, and oodles of cash to splash.
By: James Fenner