Michael Bieglmayer and Igor Mitric are a quirky duo from Austria that head a VR brand called Cybershoes. You may have heard the name pop up back in October 2018, when their Kickstarter campaign reached full funding (and then some) in a matter of only two hours.
With 1,006 backers and $247,674 raised, the campaign claims that Cybershoes are the world’s first virtual reality shoe to immerse players using natural movement. I tracked them down at CES, and they swept me off my feet.
The booth featured two demo stations, one with Doom VFR and the other with Skyrim VR. Since I wasn’t up for the chaotic pace of Doom, I opted to try Cybershoes while playing Skyrim. After sitting down on the chair, the team quickly strapped on the shoes, placed a Vive headset on my head, and just like that — I was in the world of Skyrim.
At first, I was tried to skate along the dirt path. It wasn’t very effective. Then I was instructed to pick up my feet, and as I did, I started to move along at a rapid clip. Slow, awkward movements became quick, swift little kicks, and after a few minutes I was climbing hills and shooting arrows at wolves without thinking about what my feet were doing.
My experience didn’t last long. A giant came along and bashed me with a club, and that was that. Off came the headset and the shoes, and to my disappointment, the demo was over.
I put on the Cybershoes with some reservations. Surely, I thought, they wouldn’t be intuitive or feel natural. My skepticism has now melted away. The shoes seemed easy to use, comfortable, and translated well to playing an open-world game like Skyrim. I the real world I was anchored in one place, but in the game I roamed freely.
The Cybershoes bundle
Cybershoes outdoes its competition by being a more compact alternative to walking and running in VR. The simple design is a little off putting. It looks too simple to work. Yet that might be because other VR traversal solutions often look like something out of a sci-fi movie. The shoes require you to be seated, which might be a deterrent for some, but the upside is you won’t have to worry about tripping over furniture.
You’ll quickly realize, though, that Cybershoes aren’t as simple or compact as they look. You’ll need a laundry list of very specific items to use them properly. The list includes a stationary chair that spins on its axis like a barstool, at least 59 inches of carpet with short, even texture, and a VR headset that supports SteamVR apps — particularly those that utilize free locomotion.
Wire management is another beast you’ll have to tackle, as spinning in a chair means you’ll inevitably end up tangled. While you can find some pretty great suggestions for that on their Kickstarter page, it’s yet another thing you’ll need to consider when buying in. There’s a reason why the Kickstarter campaign offered Cybershoes bundles instead of only recommending items on Amazon.
Without the bundles, you’re likely going to be paying more just to recreate the perfect setup for these shoes.
Before I commit, I think I’ll need a little more time with Skyrim.