Virtual reality has breathed new life into motion controllers, from the simple (Leap Motion) to the baroque (the omnidirectional treadmill.) 3DRudder, though, is surprisingly practical. It's a round-bottomed board that tracks your feet, translating their motion into gaming controls by mapping four different methods of control onto button presses or joystick swivels. Think of it as a cross between a skateboard and a sewing machine pedal, or a very advanced Wii Balance Board.
We're not sure how much setup goes into the 3DRudder, although supposedly all it needs is a USB port and driver. But at CES Unveiled, we got a taste of how it controls — not with a game, but with a 3D design program. Once you sit down and rest your feet on it, the board calibrates within a few seconds. Sliding it forward and backwards zooms you in and out, turning rotates you horizontally, and twisting your feet — a motion a little bit like pedaling a bicycle — rotates you up and down; though we didn't get to try it, you can also move from side to side, and you can map custom controls onto the axes.
When everything goes right, it's surprisingly intuitive
When everything goes right, the board is remarkably responsive, precise, and intuitive. It feels a bit like driving a car, with fine-grained control over how fast and how far you move. If you've only used it for a few minutes, as we did, it won't all go right, though. I wasn't quite sure how much pressure to put on it, accidentally pushing down too hard to control it well. When I rested, I clearly kept my feet tilted a little too much, because the scene would rotate slightly; I imagine I'd have to either figure out how to tread more lightly or just take my feet off. It's probably theoretically possible to stand on it, but it seems unlikely to work well, not to mention quite uncomfortable.
The 3DRudder controller is midway through an Indiegogo campaign, with a projected shipping date of May. A limited number of early bird specials will get you a board for $110, but the standard price is $130.