Please be real. Please be real. Please be real.
Another day, another insanely bizarre VR peripheral aimed at changing the industry forever. MythBuster’s veteran and beret-enthusiast Jamie Hyneman has officially launched an IndieGoGo campaign to develop a prototype shoe for enhancing movement while in VR experiences. Labeled the “Vortex,” the electronic kicks will serve as mini treadmills for each foot, allowing wearers to walk in place while immersed in VR.
The project originally focused on motorized shoes designed to increase the speed and ease of walking. After several different iterations, Hyneman honed his efforts on creating footwear that kept wearers walking in place. After six generations of effort, we now land at the feet of a crowdfunding campaign for the seventh and biggest model, which according to Hyneman, will include infrared sensors for obstacle detection, high-torque brushless motors, bluetooth capabilities, accelerometer motion sensors and force sensors.
The unique prototype seeks to distance itself from other omnidirectional treadmill options by relegating all of the work to the shoes as opposed to relying on a space-consuming harness setups like the Virtuix Omni or Kat VR. Separate motors on the heel and base of the shoe contour directly to the foot that should make for a natural walking experience, but even as Hyneman directly says in the IndieGoGo description: “It might work. It might not work. We’ll know soon.”
Hyneman and his team are looking for $50,000 to kick off this round of development. Backers have a series of rewards to earn, each as eccentric as the special effects wizard himself. Starting with a roll of duct tape and ending with a survival kit packed with everything you could possibly need to withstand the inevitable apocalypse. Unfortunately the Vortex shoes themselves will not be available during this round of funding, but the campaign does promise the return of donations if the goal is not met, a rarity in the IndieGoGo market. Expect to get your hands on these theoretical bad boys during a follow-up round of crowdfunding sometime mid 2018.
With free range motion being one of the biggest obstacles in VR today, it would be really exciting to have an entirely new option that does away with the inconvenient and immersion-killing harness support systems present in modern VR treadmills. These mini motorized sneakers, as farfetched as they may appear, could bring a whole new element to modern VR by finally making walking in place a convenient and natural experience.
As much as I want this project to succeed however, I can’t help but feel like this all might be a sick joke. Sure there’s plenty of proof that prototypes were developed and meetings were held, but did you watch the official crowdfunding announcement video? You’d think one of the co-hosts of MythBusters could afford a better editor. Then again maybe that’s just Hyneman’s style. No time for fancy visuals when you have an industry to revolutionize, right?
Head over to the official IndieGoGo page for more info.