When you think of VR the image of headsets and people waving their hands around manically in front of them pops into mind, one thing that perhaps doesn’t make it into this image, is a treadmill.
Yep, treadmills, the machine that is usually found in gyms to keep fit have for a while now found their way into the world of VR. These VR treadmills have actually been around for a good few years, the Virtuix Omni which gained support via Kickstarter saw backers get their shiny new VR treadmills in 2017. Since then other iterations of VR treadmills have been released but the idea has never fully taken off.
Omnidirectional treadmills work in a way that allows the player to perform full body motions such as turning a full 360 degrees and enabling the user to have unencumbered movement within their VR experiences. This type of freedom means that players can fully immerse themselves in a gaming experience by feeling like they are truly moving within the world. Imagine playing a game and you see a horde of zombies coming towards you, well rather than clicking profusely to get away from them you can listen to your instincts and start running instead.
Running toward the future
VR treadmills are a logical step forward for more immersive VR experiences, it helps the player feel more directly involved and gives them greater control of their in-game movements. There’s also a point to be made that it helps make gaming a more active experience and one that promotes exercise. However, given the price of these models and the simple fact that it’s quite an extensive piece of equipment, the VR world is yet to see treadmills be used to their full potential.
A recent report on pcgamer noted that the Kat Walk C2 and C2+ treadmills are currently part of a Black Friday sale that sees the price tag chopped by a few hundred dollars. Although, even with the price cut the C2 model is still a hefty $1,099, and the more advanced C2+ — which supports haptic feedback and offers an integrated seat — is priced at $1,299…Remember that’s a sale price.
Something for every virtual pocket
The spending doesn’t stop there though, to use the Kat Walk you need special shoes which can be yours for the sum of $149. So all in all, ignoring the current sale prices, if you were to buy the Kat Walk C2+ and one pair of the shoes you’d be spending a steep $1,747.
And therein lies part of the problem, while it’s understandable technology such as this comes at a hefty price, it simply isn’t feasible for the everyday player. These steep price points make VR treadmills an extravagant addition to your VR setup and one that only very serious adopters would entertain, not to mention where this thing would fit in the home.
Let’s speculate for a moment though, and let us say VR treadmills became affordable and people could find space for them. The addition of simple freedom of movement could elevate the VR experience massively — you may look super silly doing it but so will everyone else. Refined VR headsets, freedom of movement, haptic gloves, and metaverse experiences… Here we come, a real life Ready Player One experience… One day maybe.