Virtual reality technology has improved by leaps and bounds over the last few years, but most VR experiences are still either consumed sitting down or standing in one spot. The Vive has given us room-scale experiences, but that also means that the virtual world is bound by room scale too.
That’s why the idea of an omnidirectional treadmill is so appealing. Basically it’s a device that lets you freely walk or run in any direction without actually moving from your spot. The US Army has been using such a device for training for a while now, but figuring out how to make one that’s compact and affordable enough for home use has been a tricky prospect.
Strider VR have thrown their hat into the ring with one of the most compact examples of such a treadmill yet. However they’re going to face stiff competition from at least one other company who has its sights set on the same target market.
The Virtuix Solution
The Virtuix Omni is probably the best-known example of a consumer omnidirectional treadmill for VR and earlier this month the Kickstarter-funded company finally started shipping units to its backers. Preorders from the regular public also opened this month, which means Virtuix is ready to rock.
However, the Virtuix Omni has been explicitly designed for intense, high-speed gaming in first-person shooters. Sure it can be used for more pedestrian applications, but the Omni is a big boy with an eye on taking punishment. User can run at full-tilt, crouch, jump and really get into it. The Strider, it seems, isn’t aimed at that.
Less Stride more Shuffle
The Strider is a much less complex and bulky device than the Omni, judging by the pictures. It’s just a flat plate with clever mechanism to automatically adjust and correct for your body movements.
Strider says their treadmill can’t handle lateral stepping (strafing) which is something you need to do in first-person shooters or “ego shooters” as the charming German term goes. Likewise, the Strider treadmill can only handle walking speeds of 6 kph at most. So experiences designed for this device would have to literally be pedestrian.
One rather neat feature of the Strider is that it makes use of the Microsoft Kinect 2 as part of the SDK, to allow for full body posture and presence. The Omni sort of approximates this with the waist-ring, but Strider says that accurate skeletal tracking is possible. They’ve also made it possible to integrate accurate hand tracking using an optional Leap Motion controller.
There’s no mention of price and the Strider is currently only available as a developer kit. There’s a lot about the system that isn’t final, but it may prove to be a less hardcore alternative for VR applications that don’t involve shooting things at high speed.