Virtuix Omni preview: eyes-on with full-body virtual reality

CES is home to a number of wacky gadgets, from the novel to the plain-weird. Virtuix Omni, a Kickstarted treadmill for gamers, allows gamers to run around in virtual reality worlds--without walking into a wall. It may seem odd, maybe even silly at first, but seeing it in action has made me a believer.

Described as an "omnidirectional treadmill," the CES demo has players stepping into Gordon Freeman's shoes in Half-Life 2. There's no keyboard, mouse, or controller. Instead, with Oculus Rift equipped, you walk on the treadmill to walk in the game, run to run, and jump to jump.

It looks absolutely exhausting--and that's precisely why we want it.

New for the CES version of the Omni is the integration of added sensors in the treadmill that remove the necessity for Kinect. Whereas the 3D camera previously recorded player movement, the upgraded version requires players to wear special shoes that work in conjunction with capacitive rings built in to the treadmill. By stepping, the Omni can understand not only where you're going, but how quickly.

Because of how much more immersive the VR experience is with Omni, Virtuix's Colton Jacobs told us that simulator sickness becomes less of a problem when using VR headsets for an extended period of time. And while Oculus is attempting to address those concerns in updated hardware, Omni is designed to work with any VR headset, meaning it will always be additive to whatever advancements are made to VR technology.

The Virtuix Omni is still targeting a release for later this year with a $500 price tag. That'll be for everything "from the hip down," meaning you'll still need to procure a headset in order to take advantage of what Omni has to offer.