When it comes to physical activity, video gamers usually have a bad, if not stereotypical, reputation for being sloven basement dwellers with doughy hang guts. Yet as virtual reality systems become more affordable for home use, a new gaming platform aims to put a little more fitness into the first-person shooters.
The Omni is a gaming platform that allows users to stand up and navigate virtual worlds with their own two feet, be it by walking, running or jumping. Its creators say that it’s “a healthier way to game,” with motion-tracking software that even logs distances traveled and calories burned during game play.
Gamers strap in to a support belt stand inside a safety ring that is affixed to a saucer-shaped octagon about the size of a small table top. This base boasts a low-friction surface with grooves and is key to the Omni’s ability to “free gamers from passive, seated game play.”
“Users wear special shoes with pins that fit into the grooves, keeping the foot stabilized and preventing unwanted lateral slide,” Omni’s Kickstarter page explains. “The shoe sole has a higher friction coefficient on the toe to grant further stability and maintain balance. The result for users is a natural gait that allows for true virtual exploration and immersion.”
These special shoes and low-friction surfaces effectively turn the Omni into a 360-degree treadmill, where users appear to be moonwalking in reverse. The platform is compatible with the Oculus Rift virtual reality head set, Razer Hydra and other game controllers.
The Omni’s current design has a diameter of four feet, weighs 110 pounds and is sturdy enough to accommodate a user who is up to 6’5″ tall. The ring height and belt size can be adjusted, so almost any body type can use the device, which can be easily broken down and stored like exercise equipment.
The Omni natural motion interface, including platform, shoes, belt and tracking hardware and software, is available for $349 via the company’s Kickstarter page. Check out the video of the Omni in action here.