Each boot is equipped with motorized wheels that gently reposition the wearer away from danger.
What if you could walk an infinite distance in VR from the comfort of your own home? And I mean physically walk. Where would you go? What would you do? For years the idea of exploring an infinite space from a living room was that of science fiction; a colorful idea of what the future could hold.
Today, however, there are a number of company’s working on artificial locomotion technologies. This includes Ekto One, a “robotic movement system” fromPittsburgh-based wearabletechnology company Eckto VR. Made of tough carbon fiber material, the device resembles a pair of futuristic moon boots you might see in a modern science-fiction film.
Each boot is equipped with a pair of Vive Trackers which allow the VR headset to track the wearer’s feet in real-time. As they walk forward, motorized wheels located on the bottom of each boot delicately reposition the wearer back to their original starting location. The wearer is allowed to take several steps forward before the boots are activated so they can better acclimate to their virtual environment.
“As far as the comments that we most receive in demos, people are almost utterly convinced – and, in some cases, utterly convinced – that they are going to walk out of the room,” said Brad Factor, Founder & CEO of Ekto VR during an interview with Digital Trends. “People ask us, ‘Are [the boots] on? Are they working? Am I getting close to the edge [of the room]?’ It’s really as if they don’t have any sense of where they are. They are immersed in the environment to the point that they are uncertain they are still within the room that they started.”
As for when we can expect to get our hands (feet?) on these next-gen moon boots, Factor hopes to launch a partner beta program in the first half of 2022. This version of the device would be designed strictly for industrial applications and therefore feature a considerable price tag of roughly $15,000-$20,000. That said, Factor hopes to eventually drive the price down to below $1,000 as they continue to scale volume up.
“Now, obviously, those kinds of prices that we’re talking about, they’re not consumer – and, to some extent, aren’t even really a good fit for most of the enterprise use cases,” Factor said. “A lot of that is the low volume at this point. As we scale volume up, we’re expecting to bring costs and prices down dramatically.”
Over the past several years we’ve also seen a rise in consumer-ready omnidirectional treadmills. Many of these devices, such as the KAT Walk Mini S or Omni One by Virtuix, feature a relatively similar design that consists of a frictionless base and support harness. When paired with specially-designed shoes, users can physically walk, run, duck, and jump in VR regardless of available space.
Then there are games that do away with hardware altogether. Eye of the Temple, for example, uses a combination of clever level design and immersive locomotion mechanics to envelop players in an India Jones-style VR adventure in which they’re tasked with exploring a sprawling temple using their own two feet.
To learn more about Ekto VR’s unique VR boot check out the full Digital Trends interview here.
Feature Image Credit: Ekto VR