This log will be about if you should build my passive VR shoes and one of my support rigs (either the ceiling mounted one or the free standing one). Over the past several months I have had lots of fun using these passive VR shoes to walk around in VR games. However, I don't think everyone would enjoy it. They are not perfect and not completely natural. They work better in some VR games than others.
First, I do not have feet trackers made yet. I have just been using the joystick on the regular controller. This has worked fine for me because I do not have to think about using the joystick while I'm playing games. It doesn't bother me, but I'm sure this limitation would bother many others.
I plan on making custom trackers for these shoes, but if you want trackers now you will need to use a 3rd party tracking solution. Natural Locomotion or Kat Loco are a few options you have. I tried using Natural Locomotion with Nintendo joycons, but found that the joycons constantly disconnected on me.
Watch My Demos
Watch some of my demos here (the demos of the passive VR shoes, not motorized ones) to see what the device looks like when being used. Also listen to the noise the device makes and decide if that noise level is fine for you.
Try a Slidemill
Before building my device(s), I encourage you to find somewhere you can try a slidemill (like the Virtuix Omni or Kat Walk C). You can find a list of locations where you can try the Virtuix Omni here. Please note that I have only tried the Virtuix Omni, not the Kat Walk C or any other slidemill.
Slidemills have a similar sensation to my passive VR shoes, but these are the key differences I noticed between my device and the Virtuix Omni. So I encourage you to try a slidemill while keeping the following differences in mind.
Effort to Move
Walking with my VR shoes was much less tiring than walking on the Virtuix Omni. After 10 minutes of using the Virtuix Omni I was tired and winded because of the extra friction. I normally use my VR shoes for at least 45 minutes, sometimes double that, without feeling very tired. However, if you're not used to walking for long periods of time like that, you may still end up being tired after using my VR shoes, but a lot less tired than if you used the Virtuix Omni.
When using the Virtuix Omni, I felt like I had to run most of the time, since I needed more force in my legs to overcome the friction. My VR shoes using wheels with 3mm bearings, so they have very low friction (the friction is so low in fact, one of the purposes of the carpet on the platform is to increase friction a little bit).
Turning and Walking Simultaneously
My support rigs allow the user to turn while walking. Being able to do this ended up being one of the most important features for me. For me it's a must have over running, sitting, and crouching. With the Virtuix Omni I had to stop pushing against the waist ring if I wanted to turn. Trying to turn while pushing against the ring resulted in too much friction. The Kat Walk C appears to not have this issue, because I've seen some videos of people walking while turning.
Crouching, Leaning, Sitting
My support rigs allow for crouching, leaning, sitting. The Virtuix Omni supports neither. The Kat Walk C has some crouching and leaning support.
None of these devices (mine included) support laying down.
Jumping is supported on my device, but keep in mind you'd be jumping on shoes with wheels so it may feel unstable. I never need to jump in VR.
For sitting, keep in mind that it's possible because the user is strapped into a climbing harness that has straps that go around the waist and legs. Sitting while being held up by the climbing harness is not nearly as comfortable as sitting on a chair, but it's fine for sitting through a loading screen or taking breaks.
Running felt more stable and better on the Virtuix Omni, but again, it is exhausting. My devices do support running, but I don't enjoy it very much and I need to exercise more control to stay stable, otherwise I may fall forward.
Since the Virtuix Omni has a big ring around you it feels more stable. Also, since the Virtuix Omni has more friction, the extra friction will increase stability. For the Kat Walk C, I've seen videos of others falling forward while running on it, but I've also seen a few videos where the user ran on the device and it looked more controlled.
Also, with both the Virtuix Omni and my device, running for more than several minutes makes my ankles sore. Walking on my device for extended periods of time does not make my ankles sore.
I will discuss running a little more below, but I have found that I do not need to run at all in the games I've tried.
Walking on my device was quieter than with the Virtuix Omni. Running on my device is loud, just like other slidemills. Since I walk 99% of the time on it, and use headphones while playing VR 99% of the time, this doesn't bother me. With headphones the noise while walking doesn't bother me at all.
In the future I'm going to try replacing the carpet on the platform and wheels on the shoes with different materials so see if noise is reduced further.
Not Completely Natural
If you are looking for a completely natural walking experience, this is not it. You push against the harness to pull your feet back. It takes some practice to use and a little bit of time to get used to. I and my wife were able to walk on my VR shoes in 20 minutes or less. It might take longer for you. Walking backwards, walking while turning, and running took me more time to get right.
Walking forwards, while turning or not, feels the most natural. To me after some practice it feels great and almost like regular walking. Walking backwards and running still feel awkward to me. Rather than running I like to do more of a duck-walk if I want to go faster.
Slopes and Stairs
As far as slopes or stairs, I have no trouble with them. I may raise my feet and stomp more when going up and down slopes or stairs, but that's it. This video, while in-depth and informative, seems to indicate that slopes and stairs are a huge impediment for VR locomotion devices, but I strongly disagree. This video dismisses devices as dead-ends if they don't simulate slopes or stairs, which I again strongly disagree with. If you think slopes/stair simulation is important then that's fine, I don't think you're wrong, but to dismiss a solution as a dead-end because it doesn't simulate that is too harsh.
My passive VR shoes are uni-directional, meaning they go forward or backward. They do not use omni-wheels. So strafing is not supported. You can pseudo-strafe by turning at the hips. A pseudo-strafe may be fine for many games, but it might not be good enough for some. For example, if you play a boxing or fencing game where you are strafing and circling around your opponent constantly, these VR shoes will probably not work very well.
You'll be strapped into a VR support rig to keep you in the same spot as you walk and for safety. The rigs offer a wide range of movement (turning, crouching, leaning, sitting), but of course it will always feel more restrictive than if you were not strapped into a rig at all.
Since the restrictive feeling is a constant sensation, I've found by body tunes it out very quickly (since I'm used to the device now, it's tuned out almost instantly).
I don't know how much this device reduces motion sickness. I've never experienced motion sickness while using my passive VR shoes.
To give you an idea how strong my VR legs are, without a locomotion device, just standing in place, I feel sick after playing Doom VFX for more than 10 minutes, but I feel fine playing Half Life Alyx, Until You Fall, or Cosmodread. For No Man's Sky I'll feel slightly queasy if I don't walk in place.
When you walk normally, your inner ear feels acceleration as you speed up. With a locomotion device, since you are standing in place, your inner ear will never feel that acceleration. So a locomotion device will never perfectly simulate walking to your inner ear. However, actually moving your legs probably helps (how much it helps, I don't know).
You may have some must-haves and top priorities that a VR locomotion device must fulfill if you are to build or buy one. Things like running, jumping, or laying down.
When I started using my device, I thought running would be more important than it turned out to be. I'd rather walk in VR for an hour and not be tired than sprint for 20 minutes and need to stop. If I want to go faster, I find a crouched/duck walk works well. I've found that walking in real-life while my character runs works perfectly fine. I remember someone writing me that you can't simply walk through Doom 3. Well, I did, easily. I walked why my character moved at normal game speed.
I've never jumped in VR or wanted to. You could try a pseudo-jump where you lift your heels up really fast to simulate a jump.
I've never wanted to lay down in VR.
Some think slopes and stairs are incredibly important to get right, but I've found they are not at all important.
After using my device, what turned out to be the most important to me was walking forward feeling great, walking while turning, and crouching. My point is you should think about what you think is important to you now and think about if it's actually important. You may think that running is very important, but are you going to end up not using the device because it's too tiring? Would you rather just walk 90% of the time? How often do you jump or lay down in VR now?
I'm saying that these movements are not important to me, and I imagine might end up not being important to many people, but if you still find these movements important, then that's completely fine! I don't think you're wrong. We're different people with different preferences. I just want you to think deeply about what is important to you and what isn't before you spend the time building this device.
I think this device is best for games that are slow to medium pace. I've used it in these games without any issues.
- No Man's Sky
- Half Life Alyx
- Doom 3
- Ancient Dungeon
- Resident Evil 4
Is VR Locomotion Your Thing?
When I started looking into VR, not being able to walk was my focus. VR locomotion became the thing about VR most important to me. Some people find full-body tracking, haptic vests, gloves, or aspects about the headsets themselves to be what's most important to them. For me, it's VR locomotion.
I'm willing to use solutions that aren't perfect, but still fun. I'm willing to spend time building a device, tweaking it, and troubleshooting. If that sounds like you, you might like this device a lot.
I hope all this information helps you decide if this device is something worth building for yourself.