|Feet Tracking, Locomotion
The creators of the KAT WALK omnidirectional treadmill want to solve the problem of locomotion in virtual reality and allow users to freely move within a small space. Built especially for first person shooters, the KAT WALK is small enough to fit into any living room, yet large enough to offer 360 degrees of continuous movement. The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter, and first units are expected to ship in the first half of 2016. With its built-in and wearable sensors, users can literally walk/run (forwards and backward), jump, crouch and sit in the virtual world.
The main feature of this omnidirectional treadmill is its open construction that minimizes constraints on movement and allows users to perform all basic movements like walking, running, jumping, or crouching.
Other omnidirectional treadmills put users inside a support ring, which stands in the way and prevents unrestricted movement of hands and legs. The KAT WALK instead puts users inside a special harness. This harness can be adjusted to accommodate various body shapes with maximum carry capacity up to 308lbs (140kg). The support structure itself is designed to work with users measuring between 4'3" and to 6'7" (130cm - 200cm).
Once strapped in the harness, users can freely move without having to worry about hitting the supporting structure. Walking and running has a realistic friction thanks to a pair of specially designed shoes. They use a high-friction material to mimic what it feels like to walk on a real ground.
When not used for movement control, the KAT WALK can be equipped with a swing chair add-on, which provides a comfortable place to sit during VR gaming experiences controlled with a gamepad.
The final version should have an outer diameter of 40" (100cm) and weigh 165lbs (75kg). Not only should it be more compact than the prototype, but its durability should increase thanks to the use of aviation-grade aluminum alloy.
The KAT WALK emulates regular mouse and keyboard or gamepad input commands. As such, all games that accept this type of input should work without any major issues. Developers also work on SDK, which will help third-party developers integrate KAT WALK’s motion tracking features deeper into their games and software.
The KAT WALK omnidirectional treadmill is a creation of KatVR, a Chinese VR company founded in 2013. Their Kickstarter campaign launched in July 2015, with a goal to reach $100,000. The campaign ended in August of the same year with a total of $149,278 raised by 231 individual backers.
The KAT WALK is currently available for pre-order for $799, shipping not included. An additional pair of shoes costs $29.