Node-based tracking offers a simplistic alternative to omnidirectional treadmills.
This past Monday, June 10, advanced locomotion tech manufacturer KAT VR introduced the ‘KAT loco’; a node-based tracking system that appears to fulfill a halfway point between traditional VR thumbstick locomotion and full-blown omnidirectional treadmill locomotion. If you’re not familiar with KAT VR, it’s the same company that offers devices such as the ‘KAT Walk’ and its smaller counterpart, the ‘KAT Walk mini’.
KAT VR seeks to fund the project, in full, through its Kickstarter page. Initially setting a goal of $50k, the company has already blown past that number in short order. But what exactly is the difference between this and KAT’s various other solutions?
The KAT loco appears to allow you to walk or run in place to generate locomotion in games, and KAT VR claims that it works seamlessly in any free-locomotion games across the Oculus Rift, SteamVR, PlayStation VR, and Viveport platforms. It will also supposedly provide support for the Oculus Quest before the Kickstarter period ends.
The device offers decoupled head and body tracking via three wireless tracking nodes: one placed on your waist and two placed on your ankles. The company claims to track motion data at 20 ms, an impressively low latency if the claim turns out to hold water. Especially when you consider the fact that not only is the KAT loco capable of mapping positional information into your game’s locomotion system, it appears to be fully capable of translating motion data into mocap-friendly apps such as VRChat.
For an entire wireless system that comes with its own integration SDK (the company claims that software integration only takes a few hours!) and a slated 10-hour battery life per node, the KAT loco could feasibly knock the Vive Trackers out of their throne in the lonely VR motion tracking market if all goes well for the product line.
What differentiates the KAT loco system against its direct competitors Natural Locomotion and WalkOVR, according to comments made by KAT VR’s official YouTube channel, is that “The waist sensor captures the direction of your body independently so that you are able to look around while constantly moving towards any intended direction,” and likewise “Instead of detecting the lean of your body to achieve backward movement/strafing, the ankle sensors allow you to carry out these actions (sic) directly with your feet. So, when you lean to shoot from behind a wall, you will not strafe.”
If the KAT loco seems like an interesting accessory, note that Kickstarter rewards are supposed to begin shipping in August. Only a few ‘Special Extra Early Bird’ rewards are left in stock at the time of this article’s writing.