VR Treadmill Overview – March 2018

- March 25, 2018

– Last updated on April 24, 2018

VR treadmills have been trending recently, so I decided to do some research and also share my own experience. There is a lot of noise but very few actual products. Here is what I found:

Slidemills systems

This is the cheapest and most common design for a VR treadmill, which isn’t really a treadmill at all. I shall call these Slidemills.

Virtuix Omni

Image result for Virtuix Omni

Virtuix started the slidemill craze with their Kickstarter back in 2013. It was originally priced around $300 to $500. They started shipping on Jan 2016 and on Dec 2016 announced that they will not ship units overseas (outside the US) due to “unforeseen costs” and also that they are not targeting the home market anymore. The Kickstarter ended badly with many backers getting nothing, and Virtuix slow to process refunds. The current price of the Omni is around $3000. I tried the Omni on several occasions (one was donated to our local Makerspace). I’ll get to this in a bit.

KatVR

Another Kickstater, similar design to the Omni only bigger, with a full harness and a beam to support your weight.

The KatVR price is $10k-12k, they have two versions which are very similar. I’ve tried the more expensive version a few weeks ago. KatVR announced a new kickstarter just a few days ago, a Mini version of the Kat Walk:

Cyberith Virtualizer

Yet another kickstater, this one from August 2014. I could find very little information about them and no hands-on reviews. Here is a video of their product in action:

I couldn’t find the price for the Cyberith Virtualizer, if you know please comment. Reading the comments on Kickstater it seems many backers didn’t get their Virtualizer and a lawsuit was filed, or there’s some kind of court action going on.

Update: They have two versions, Developer Edition which costs 6000 Eurosand an Elite Version (that’s sold to theme parks, arcades, etc) which is 10000 Euros.

Update 2: Turns out they have not shipped kickstarter pledges at all. I recommend staying well away from Cyberith.

 

Slidemills Conclusion

Slidemills do one thing and one thing only. They conform to the naive notion of what a VR treadmill should look like. It looks just like walking but in reality it is nothing like walking. It uses a different set of muscles, the friction is different, your balance is different, it’s cumbersome, tiring, painful, un-fun and just overall terrible. Look closely at all the videos above and take note how people shuffle their legs around. It’s just as uncomfortable as it looks. On top of that, it’s really limiting. You can’t crouch (not really, not fully). You can’t bend over to pick up something from the floor. You can’t duck behind a corner. Even turning around is a chore.

Oh, and you need special shoes. Or feet covers, or magic socks. And you’ll need a bunch of them in different sizes. Running an arcade? Like the smell of feet? Yeah. You’ll need racks of shoes, a disinfecting procedure, the whole shebang.

Slidemills are one of those things that look like a good idea until you actually try it. The concept is fundamentally flawed. I don’t see any advantage a slidemill has over run-in-place locomotion, which doesn’t limit your range of movement and doesn’t require a $10,000 contraption that smells of feet.

Slidemills also don’t help prevent simulation sickness, because you are not actually moving. Sim sickness is triggered when input from your inner ear (which measures acceleration) is in conflict with visual cues. The fact that your legs are moving (or not moving) is completely irrelevant.

Treadmill Systems

Omnideck by Omnifinity.se

This is the gold standard of VR treadmills. Originally designed to be used with a giant dome projection the Omnideck has since been adapted for VR. This is a *huge* treadmill, over 3 meters in diameter and almost 1000kg in weight. This is the currently the only device that can truly simulate walking, and the huge size is (unfortunately) a mandatory requirement. The user must have enough space to accelerate, before the motion system can move him, slowly and with as little acceleration as possible, back to the center. It is crucial that the user doesn’t feel being moved to the center, or people will get sick.

The Omnideck is also the most mature product on this list, having been on the market since 2011. The huge size comes with a huge price tag, around $100k before shipping, placing it firmly at the highest-end of the treadmill market.

Infinadeck.com

Infinadeck have been around for a few year and have undergone several iterations in that time. Their current prototype uses Vive Trackers for the feet and a safety hoop. This is the only treadmill to actually include treadmills, in a rather clever X/Y motion system. The Infinadeck is not yet available for sale, price and release date are currently unknown. I don’t expect it to be cheap, just the motors to drive those belts would cost several thousand dollars.

They have some kind of big reveal is planned for Mar 28, I will update this post if new information is released.

THE APERIUM POD

A single-direction treadmill, quite big compared to the other systems.  They are also using the Vive Trackers for the feet, as seen in this video. Designed for arcades and Location-Based-Entertainment. It seems they have a few VR games that are tailored for the treadmill.

 Honorable Mentions

  • Vue – Chinese company, no reviews, no activity on social media in the past year. $900 price tag.
  • SpacewalkerVR – One-directional treadmill that rotates (which makes no sense at all). No price or release date. Looks pretty bad in this video. They have recently removed most of the information they had on their website. Safe to assume this product is abandoned.
  • StriderVR – Just a prototype at this point. Very loud. Looks like it’s really easy to fall off.  Here is a video of someone walking on it and looking extremely uncomfortable / awkward.
  • Virtusphere – Crazy giant hamster ball. Developed for the military over 10 years ago. Only works with 3DOF headsets because positional tracking inside a rolling ball is not possible. Momentum is also a big problem, when that ball gets rolling it’s not easy to stop.
  • Jamie Hyneman’s VR Shoes – Crowdfunded campaign by Myth Buster Jamie Hyneman. I really don’t know how to feel about this one. On one hand, Jamie is awesome. On the other hand, this is such an obviously terrible idea. I guess it’s good that he never reached the funding goal.
  • WalkOVR – Another Slidemill, very similar to the rest. Another video of someone walking while looking super awkward and uncomfortable.
  • WizDish RoVR – Tiny Slidemill. I really don’t see the point of this thing. It’s literally just run-in-place with extra steps.
  • OWatch – Seems very similar to the Omni, it has an overhead beam but just for the cables.
  • Cybershoes – Aptly named Cybershoes, this “slidemilll” got rid of the bowl entirely and is actually a swivel chair with tracked slippers. I have not tried this device but I suspect it will trigger simulation sickness in sensitive players. They are planning on doing a kickstarter soon, price or release date are still unknown

Conclusion

Which is the best VR treadmill currently on the market? Well, there isn’t one. The Omnideck is well outside the budget of most businesses, the Infinideck shows promise but isn’t available yet, and everything else is just really bad. Building a decent VR treadmill is a problem that’s much harder than it looks, and it’s hasn’t been cracked yet.

 

Written by

Vice

Shachar "Vice" Weis is the founder and CEO of Packet39, a developer of Virtual & Augmented Reality custom software and hardware solutions for the manufacturing, power and aerospace industries.