Image of Virtuix Omni in use in 2013.
Tentative release date Q4 2016 (subject to change)
Virtuix Omni is an Omnidirectional treadmill simulator for virtual reality games and other applications. It is currently in development by Virtuix. It uses a platform to simulate locomotion i.e. the motion of walking, requiring both special shoes and surface that reduce friction. It works in conjunction with a variety of head mounted display's such as the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, Gear VR and allows gamers to walk or run within the game they are playing.
In 2013, the Virtuix Omni became one of the ten biggest technology Kickstarter campaigns, raising $1.1 million in funding. Since then, Virtuix has raised another $8 million from private and institutional investors.
Although originally slated to be released in January 2014, production of the Omni only began in November 2015. If the current launch target of Q4 2016 is met, it will have been delayed by over two-and-a-half-years.
Virtuix was founded by Jan Goetgeluk. He quit his investment banking job to develop the project, investing 12 months of his time and a $200,000 personal investment to develop a prototype. The prototype for the Omni used dummy shoes and Kinect software to detect movement instead of the sensor system that became part of the final product. He applied for a US patent on 23rd October 2013 for his Locomotion System and Apparatus however, there is also prior art: the UK's Wizdish whose product is now known as RoVR. Jan Goetgeluk purchased a dish and shoes from Wizdish system prior to the filing of the US patent and could have derived his work, as the technology is exactly the same. Virtuix presented the prototype of the Omni at the Electronic Entertainment Expo 2013 in Los Angeles, California where it was reviewed by Engadget and other electronic publications, including The Verge.
Virtuix launched a Kickstarter campaign in June 2013 to raise money for manufacturing. The campaign was endorsed by Oculus Rift founder Palmer Luckey and overshot its funding goal of $150,000 within three and a half hours of it being posted. The campaign raised a total of $1.1 million when it closed, making it one of the top 10 biggest technology crowdfunding campaigns at the time. Goetgeluk presented the Virtuix Omni on an episode of the TV show Shark Tank in 2013, after selling approximately 3,000 units in the Kickstarter campaign. He failed to obtain funding from the Sharks after asking for $2 million for 10% of the company. However, Shark Tank investor and billionaire Mark Cuban invested in Virtuix after the airing of the show. Virtuix has raised a total of $8 million in additional funding from institutions and private investors. Investors have included 2020 Ventures, SeedInvest, Tekton Ventures, and Scout Ventures. In 2016, the company tested the waters under Regulation A for a potential offering of shares to the public.
The Omni presented at SXSW in 2014 where Virtuix founder Jan Goetgeluk also spoke on the topic of virtual reality. The final version of the Virtuix Omni was presented at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was described as "sleek" compared to its previous versions.
In January 2016, the first production Omnis began to ship to consumers. By December that year, Virtuix announced that they would no longer be shipping Kickstarter pre-orders to non-US customers, and would not allow customers to swap their shipping address to a package forwarding service, claiming the logistics and costs of shipping were "unfeasible". The company would refund the orders with an additional 3% per year from the date of the order.
The Omni is a locomotion simulator designed to work as a game controller and allow gamers to walk within the game environment in which they are playing. It is used in tandem with Oculus Rift or other virtual reality head mounted displays and is a peripheral for a full virtual reality game setup. The surface is bowl shaped and requires special low friction shoes in order to operate it. It uses inertial sensors to track a person's position, the length of their stride, and how fast they are moving. The information is then sent to a computer which translates the data into the game movements.
Games and peripherals
Virtuix Omni acts as a standard game controller and is designed to work with any PC game. Virtuix is also developing TRAVR, a first-person shooter game as well as three additional games designed specifically for the Omni. The Virtuix Omni has been reviewed in publications for games such as Grand Theft Auto V, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Battlefield 4, and ARMA 3 among others. In addition to gaming, the Virtuix Omni can be used for virtual reality applications including training and simulation, fitness, healthcare, architecture, virtual tourism, meet-ups and events. Virtuix is a sponsor of Hands Omni, a wireless glove that allows users to "feel" an object they are grabbing in virtual reality. The glove is in development as of 2015 and is being developed to be used as a peripheral for the Omni.
Virtuix is developing a version of the Omni for use in military simulation. The military version has additional forms of movement features such as accommodating a fully combat-loaded soldier. It was first exhibited in December 2014.
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