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Leap into more immersive VR feet first with ‘Mythbusters’ host’s Vortrex shoes

Jamie Hyneman's Electric Shoes
Using a headset to experience virtual reality content is a uniquely immersive experience — until you try to move around and find yourself confined in on way or another. Now, a team helmed by MythBusters star Jamie Hyneman is attempting to crowdfund an ambitious peripheral that could solve this problem.

Vortrex Shoes operate using a very simple principle: They allow the wearer to maintain the illusion of moving around while staying in one spot. This means that if they are embroiled in a VR experience, they can walk around naturally without the need for a huge amount of space around them.

The idea dates back to the 1980s, when Hyneman bolted drill motors to the back of a pair of rollerblades in an effort to invent a new form of personal transportation. As the VR boom was just dawning in 2010, he began working with Edmond J. Dougherty — an engineer who was part of the team that created Skycam, the technology that is used to gain unique camera angles during NFL games.

Since then, Hyneman and Dougherty have produced several different iterations of their design. Now, the project has been developed to the point where an Indiegogo campaign was set up to fund the next steps.

This particular project differs from the vast majority of crowdfunding campaigns, as backers aren’t actually purchasing the product itself. “It might work,” reads the blurb. “It might not. We’ll know soon.”

Since there is a chance that Vortrex might not come to fruition, backers can’t actually claim a pair of skates as a reward. Instead, there are various different Hyneman-approved survival kits, depending on how much cash in being offered, according to a report from Road to VR.

This isn’t to say that the team behind the project doesn’t expect it to be a success. The plan is for the campaign to fund the final prototype, at which point a full production run would likely follow.

The Vortrex system is being built such that it should be compatible with as broad a range of software as possible. The footwear will function as a gamepad, translating movements into standard inputs, but drivers and software development kits will also be made available to developers who want to implement more tailored support.

The campaign will run for the next month, and seeks to raise $50,000.

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