One of the key features of the current virtual reality revival is its reliance on technologies developed for mobile devices. The new virtual reality hardware we’re seeing is a far cry from the nightmarish tethers and back-breaking hardware from the late 20th century.
Now we are seeing various takes on small, wireless and lightweight hardware for virtual reality use. The StompzVR by Talaris Technologies is a great example of this ethos.
The actual product comes in the form of an unassuming little box with a few LEDs and a strap. One for each foot. There are no wires, you just strap them to your feet (over the shoes if needed) and after calibration they are ready to go.
While wearing the “Stompz” as the company refers to them users can control the movement of their avatars by moving their feet.
The idea is not to actually provide 1-to-1 motion tracking of leg movement. In fact, while wearing an HMD its best you don’t actually move from the spot you’re standing, unless you have some sort of safety system as is the case with the SteamVR Lighthouse technology.
When used for virtual reality the Stompz are intended to be used while standing or sitting in place. It provides you with a more natural feeling way to control character movement. The user makes low-impact, small movement while remaining in place and the software interprets this as full strides.
In the promotional material we see the Stompz combined with an Oculus HMD and a LeapMotion front attachment. This makes for a very lightweight system that provides walking motion control, full hand motion tracking (via the LeapMotion) and 6DOF head tracking thanks to the HMD. This is definitely one of the lowest profile full-body virtual reality configurations for consumers at present.
Another important aspect of the StompzVR is how programmable it is. The inertial sensors can be set up to perform other control functions. Strap them to your hands and turn a virtual steering wheel, or use them to work virtual accelerator and brake pedals, for example.
Final pricing for the device is still up in the air, but pre-orders (which have sold out) were priced at $100. The final product is likely to be in that range. This certainly makes it a far more reasonable choice compared to the bulk, complexity and physical exertion of an omnidirectional treadmill. At this point it seems the product will come to market in 2016, if it does so at all.