Of all the apparatus and peripherals promised by VR, omnidirectional treadmills are one of the most intriguing, pervasive, and expensive problems that developers are trying to solve.
Don’t get me wrong: flight, driving and full free rotation simulators like Moveo are staggering in their complexity, and in their ability to keep a player seamlessly immersed.
But the omnidirectional treadmill is a mainstay in our imaginations; we’re obsessed with the prospect of a limitless virtual world packed into a tiny space, as promised to us by Star Trek’s Holodeck and Ready Player One.
Besides, using your body to continuously move through a virtual world is several degrees more immersive and more seamless than any equivalent experience that uses a mechanism like fast travel — hands down.
The Best VR Omnidirectional Treadmills
However, solving the unique challenges presented by continuous movement hasn’t been easy, and each developer has approached the design of their omnidirectional platforms in their own unique way.
Here are the five best VR omnidirectional treadmills that are currently available or coming soon.
Bookmark this page and as more VR treadmills are announced, we’ll add them here. If we missed any, please let us know in the comments at the bottom of the page, or on Twitter.
The Virtuix Omni is the most popular and the most recognizable of all VR omnidirectional treadmills. It was announced in 2013 when it debuted on Kickstarter and became one of the top 10 grossing technology campaigns of that year, raising over $1.1 million in funding, well beyond the development team’s initial $150,000 goal.
The Omni works with the Oculus Rift as well as other headsets, and features a concave platform and a ringed harness. Players use special low-friction shoes to walk around inside the bowl-like surface while pod-like sensors on the shoes track position, speed, and stride length, which are then passed as movement data to the game.
Currently, the Omni can only be purchased for commercial purposes and with the attendant commercial licensures, which includes the recently released Omniverse content manager, a platform that comes with over a dozen high quality titles developed specifically for the Omni, as well as more features and functionality around tracking playtime, player management, and usage statistics.
Like other treadmill peripherals, the Omni will work with any PC game as a standard controller.
While most omnidirectional treadmills and other locomotion simulators put players inside a ring, the KAT WALK, developed by Chinese company KatVR, utilizes a harness that allows for more unrestricted movement of both the arms and legs.
Once securely inside the harness, players can walk, run, crouch and even jump(!) in their virtual environment, and the harness also acts as a swing-seat if you want to sit down in between gameplay, or while enjoying a non-locomotive simulation.
It uses its own specially designed shoes inside a concave platform, similar to the Omni, but uses high-friction surface contact to create a more natural walking experience in VR, since frictionless walking often feels a lot like walking on ice, and takes a lot of attention and practice to stay upright.
The KAT WALK is also the product of a successful Kickstarter campaign, having raised $149,278 in August 2015. The full rig will weigh about 165 lbs (75 kg) with a diameter of 40” and the harness can accommodate players from 4’3” to 6’7” and up to 380 lbs (173 kg).
The Infinadeck is an omnidirectional treadmill that promises to deliver a “true Holodeck experience” to its users. It was developed by George Burger after he watched his son playing Call of Duty and surmised that he’d enjoy the game much more if he could actually move through the environment.
Unlike peripherals that use special shoes or friction, the Infinadeck uses motorized parts and an “infinite” belt that moves below the user. An understated harness helps to keep players centered inside the 35 square foot base, which propels the user in the opposite direction they’re moving to allow for continuous, immersive movement in VR.
(If you’re a fan of Ready Player One, the Infinadeck looks a lot like Parzival’s endless omnidrectional surface sounds.)
Likely due to its complex components, the Infinadeck platform weighs over 500 lbs (227 kg), although with no planned release date and no price, that’s not likely to be anyone’s problem soon.
4Vue VR Treadmill
The VUE VR treadmill, on face, seems like a pretty near relative of the KAT WALK, albeit easily distinguished by its bright blue color palette.
The VUE uses a two-belt system for additional player security and safety, which allows for an uninhibited range of motion when combined with its concave platform and proprietary frictionless shoes.
As with the KAT WALK, players can walk, run, jump and crouch on the VUE and this movement, speed, and stride length data is reflected in gameplay.
The Virtualizer is another Kickstarter campaign progeny, having raised $361,452 of its original $250,000 goal in August 2014.
Developed by Cyberith, an award-winning studio in Austria, the Virtualizer does for the European market what the Omni does for the North and South American markets.
Featuring a round concave surface and a ringed support harness, the Virtualizer works similarly to the Omni but has a sleeker, more minimalist profile, and what looks to be a slightly less pronounced curving of the bowl platform.
Because it’s a little bit smaller in diameter, however, it allows for a shorter stride length than the Omni.
Although Cyberith’s most significant foothold is in Europe, the Visualizer has been cracking international markets by way of university research, ground force and police officer training, and VR arcades and playlabs; that’s a pretty handy hat-trick.