Skip to main content

Hands (or feet, rather) on: Virtuix Omni

For a certain type of gamer, the Omni is the answer to years of prayers.

In the wake of the Oculus Rift’s rise comes a rebirth of all things virtual reality. The Oculus goggles are all about immersion, and some companies like Virtuix are taking that idea one step further.

The Omni, Virtuix’s omnidirectional treadmill, is a free-standing rig designed to work in conjunction with other devices, especially the Oculus Rift. To experience the Omni, you first need to put on a special set of shoes with frictionless pads for soles that are made for Omni’s slick, concave surface. Previous versions of the Omni used cameras (including Microsoft’s Kinect) to judge where you were, but the current model uses three concentric circles with sensors in them to track your actual footsteps. You step forward and let gravity do the rest. With each step your foot slides back to the center, and the game you’re playing in turn recognizes it as forward momentum.

The shoes themselves are surprisingly stylish, with a simple black design and the company logo on the side. The guys from Virtuix even joke that they may next branch out and release a line of shoes. Each Omni will come with a pair of the shoes – you tell the company your size when you buy an Omni – and additional shoes will be sold separately.

omni-2
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Once you’re all laced up, you then need to unlatch the elevated protective ring to enter the Omni. From there you attach yourself to a harness that rests on top of the elevated ring, which allows for 360-degree movement. You then secure a pair of straps to your legs. Putting on the Oculus Rift comes next, and then, finally, you pick up your gun-shaped controller. It’s a bit of a process.

In order to run at a good pace, you need to move quickly – and you need to trust in the harness to stop you from falling. The ultimate goal of using the Omni in tandem with the Oculus Rift is total immersion. You move your head to look around and see the world using the headset, while the Omni allows you to actually walk or run around like you’re inside the game. The rifle is also optional, but if you are moving and looking around, it makes sense to want to use a replica of a gun to shoot enemies.

When it works, the illusion is complete. You run into firefights, dodging behind cover naturally. There are some issues though. The system is designed with forward steps in mind, so strafing – an indispensable feature in most shooters – is difficult. Borderline impossible, even. In practice, you need to turn in the direction you want to move, and that can get you tangled in the Oculus chord.

Some of the limits placed on movement will be corrected when the Oculus Rift is released at retail. The CES 2014 “Crystal Cove” prototype Rift adds a motion-sensing camera that detects your physical position in a three-dimensional space, meaning the final version will more believably allow you to peak around corners and duck. The height of the circle that your harness rests on is also static, so shorter people may have issues with the fixed-height setup. Virtuix claims this will be addressed in the final version of the product.

The other issue is the price, which sits at $499. That alone is a big fee, but to get the most out of the Omni you’ll also need to purchase the Oculus Rift headset – currently only available as a $300 dev kit – and run the system on a high-end gaming rig. That’s all assuming you have the space for the device itself.

That said, Omni is made for a particular type of hardcore gamer, one that may be less likely to balk at the price than most. Those that do give it a try are likely going to find themselves in a workout, assuming of course that Virtuix is able to iron out kinks like the inability to strafe. The system forces you to really move. There is a sweet spot you find after practicing for a bit that gives you maximum movement with minimum effort, but the Omni still requires more strenuous activity than sitting on a couch with a controller in-hand. This does create some interesting possibilities for exercise-focused games, and it also creates an opportunity to turn a standard gaming session into something a fitness-oriented activity.

Virtuix is also working on its own software, and the company plans to debut a game/demo of its own design – a shooter, they tell us – in the near future. It isn’t clear yet how other types of games will work with the rig, but we should get a better sense of that when the retail version finalized.

There are a few issues that will keep the Omni from becoming a mainstream device, but it will offer some the total-immersion experience they have waited their whole life for. Thanks to the Oculus Rift, a gun peripheral, and possibly also a haptic vest like the KOR-FX – a device that gives you physical feedback (like where you are getting shot from) through vibration – you can say goodbye to reality.

The Omni is currently available for pre-order, and the retail model is planned for release in May or June, right around the time of E3.

 Highs

  • Pairs with the Oculus for an immersive experience
  • The movement has been greatly improved
  • The surface and the shoes offer for good movement

Lows

  • The price and physical size
  • The movement is still limited
  • Requires several, expensive third part peripherals

Editors' Recommendations

Ryan Fleming
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Ryan Fleming is the Gaming and Cinema Editor for Digital Trends. He joined the DT staff in 2009 after spending time covering…
NYT Strands: answers for Monday, April 15
NYT Strands logo.

Strands is a brand new daily puzzle from the New York Times. A trickier take on the classic word search, you'll need a keen eye to solve this puzzle.

Like Wordle, Connections, and the Mini Crossword, Strands can be a bit difficult to solve some days. There's no shame in needing a little help from time to time. If you're stuck and need to know the answers to today's Strands puzzle, check out the solved puzzle below.
How to play Strands
You start every Strands puzzle with the goal of finding the "theme words" hidden in the grid of letters. Manipulate letters by dragging or tapping to craft words; double-tap the final letter to confirm. If you find the correct word, the letters will be highlighted blue and will no longer be selectable.

Read more
Wordle Today: Wordle answer and hints for April 15
Someone playing Wordle on a smartphone.

We have the solution to Wordle on April 15, as well as some helpful hints to help you figure out the answer yourself, right here. We've placed the answer at the bottom of the page, so we don't ruin the surprise before you've had a chance to work through the clues. So let's dive in, starting with a reminder of yesterday's answer.
Yesterday's Wordle answer
Let's start by first reminding ourselves of yesterday's Wordle answer for those new to the game or who don't play it daily, which was "BLIMP." So we can say that the Wordle answer today definitely isn't that. Now, with that in mind, perhaps take another stab at it using one of these Wordle starting words and circle back if you have no luck.
Hints for today's Wordle
Still can't figure it out? We have today's Wordle answer right here, below. But first, one more thing: Let's take a look at three hints that could help you find the solution, without giving it away, so there's no need to feel guilty about keeping your streak alive -- you put in some work, after all! Or just keep scrolling for the answer.

Today’s Wordle ends with the letter P.
Today’s Wordle uses three vowels.
Today's Wordle involves preparing or outfitting someone or something with the appropriate gear, equipment, or skills required for a particular purpose.

Read more
NYT Connections: hints and answers for Monday, April 15
New York Times Connection game logo.

Connections is the latest puzzle game from the New York Times. The game tasks you with categorizing a pool of 16 words into four secret (for now) groups by figuring out how the words relate to each other. The puzzle resets every night at midnight and each new puzzle has a varying degree of difficulty. Just like Wordle, you can keep track of your winning streak and compare your scores with friends.

Some days are trickier than others. If you're having a little trouble solving today's Connections puzzle, check out our tips and hints below. And if you still can't get it, we'll tell you today's answers at the very end.
How to play Connections
In Connections, you'll be shown a grid containing 16 words — your objective is to organize these words into four sets of four by identifying the connections that link them. These sets could encompass concepts like titles of video game franchises, book series sequels, shades of red, names of chain restaurants, etc.

Read more