6 VR Locomotion Systems (Treadmills) To Watch
Current game mechanics have you either teleporting across the world, or using your joystick to walk around which tends to cause VR sickness in many people. The solution to this is to allow for room-scale-tracking, mapping your steps to the steps of your VR avatar.
Unfortunately even the largest room can’t accommodate the epic worlds we are given to explore in VR. So several ambitious companies have set out to solve the problem by letting you run in place. Generally we call these locomotion systems “treadmills”, but they are much different from what you would expect to find in a gym.
Most involve a harness of some sort that holds you in place while your feet glide across a low friction surface, though this isn’t always the case. Currently, there are several options ranging from just some shoes you slip on and wear while you sit, to full on arcade equipment.
The simplest and perhaps strangest system are the Cybershoes. These are wheeled attachments you strap to your shoes, and wear while seated. You then roll your feet across the ground in a walking like motion that is then translated into in game movement.
They also offer a Cyberchair, that allows you to swivel around, letting you change directions while you walk. One of the big claims this product makes is that it will help eliminate VR sickness, while also increasing your activity level.
Offering a variety of different systems, KAT Walk recently had a very successful Kickstarter campaign with the KAT Walk C, showing there really is a market for an affordable VR treadmill. Their system has you strap into a vertical arm positioned over a smooth, concave platform.
You don special low friction shoes that slide across the platform as you attempt to walk. The force you apply to the harness you are tied into lets the system detect your movement, and will translate this into movement in the game, such as walking, running, strafing, rotating, moving backwards, jumping, and crouching.
This is an exciting amount of mobility for a home VR locomotion system, and we are looking forward to seeing how they are received.
This is what you probably imagine when someone says a 360-degree treadmill. With motorized belts, similar to what an exercise treadmill would use, that can translate in both the X and Y direction, you can combine the two to always bring you back to center regardless of the direction you are walking.
The advantage of this system is that it doesn’t rely on the slipping technique required for walking on something like the Kat Walk C. Unfortunately this system is still not ready for home users, limited to industrial applications. Aside from technological limitations, it is likely quite cost-prohibitive to own one personally.
ROVR offers systems uses a circular handrail to contain you while you stand on a super low friction base, after putting on their special over shoes. It claims it is both lightweight and robust allowing for easy transport.
This is a slip-walking system so you don’t take normal steps at all, but simply slip your feet forward and back. The system actually uses audio cues from the sound of this slipping to determine the speed you are moving. One of the advantages of this system is that it doesn’t require strapping into anything.
Virtualizer Elite 2
Another slip-style treadmill that uses overshoes to keep the friction low. This one has you wear a harness that attaches you to a ring supported by three mobile arms that keeps you centered and tracks your motion; up-and-down as well as forward and back.
The most unique aspect of this treadmill is that the flat platform that you walk on will tilt in the direction you are walking. This allows for a more natural gait, where you actually pick up your feet, unlike the ROVR.
Omni by Virtuix
Originally a Kickstarter product, now they are sold mostly to arcades and conventions as these are now extremely expensive units. The Omni has a walking surface similar to the concave platform used by the KAT Walk C and requires special shoes, and a harness similar to the Virtualizer Elite 2, where it has three arms used to keep you centered.
The unit also comes with special trackers that work with specific games. Otherwise, you can map the harness inputs to keyboard or joystick commands. An important note the hoop that the harness attaches to does not move, so while you can crouch it does limit your range of movement.
Like many of the other units, the Omni was designed to help avoid VR sickness and encourage physical fitness.
After seeing all the options, what do you think? Did we miss any options? Let us know in the comments below.