Virtual reality startup Virtuix is building a VR treadmill for your home. The Omni One is an elaborate full-body controller that lets you physically run, jump, and crouch in place. Following an earlier business- and arcade-focused device, it’s supposed to ship in mid-2021 for $1,995, and Virtuix is announcing the product with a crowdfunding investment campaign.
The crowdfunded Virtuix Omni started development in 2013. It’s not a traditional treadmill — it’s a low-friction platform that’s used with special low-friction shows or shoe covers and a harness. (You may remember the overall VR treadmill concept from Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One.) As an Omni One prototype video demonstrates, the device basically holds you in place while your feet slide across the platform, and that movement gets translated into a VR environment. We’ve tried earlier iterations of the Omni, and it’s an awkward yet fascinating experience.
The Omni One is more compact than its predecessors, anchoring users to a single vertical bar instead of a ring around the whole treadmill. You can also fold it up and put it away. It will play games from a dedicated store that’s supposed to launch with 30 titles. Virtuix doesn’t have a full list, but it plans to feature third-party games alongside experiences it develops itself, with the latter category including games similar to Fortnite and Call of Duty.
The retail Omni One will be a self-contained system with a standalone headset — it’s being tested with a Pico Neo 2, but Virtuix will decide which headset to use for retail in the coming months. A $995 developer kit will only offer the treadmill portion. For users who want the full package, Virtuix is opening a Regulation A funding campaign, which lets companies sell shares through a crowdfunding-style process. Fans of the concept must invest a minimum of $1,000, and in return, they’ll get a 20 percent discount on the consumer Omni One, or a 40 percent discount if they invest in the first week.
Virtuix isn’t describing these investments as “preorders.” VR crowdfunding campaigns can be a high-risk proposition, since markets and technology can change rapidly as companies are building a product. Virtuix delivered on its promises far better than some VR startups, but the Omni’s purpose still evolved over time. It was conceived as a home gaming system that would ship all over the world, but Virtuix was forced to cancel some preorders after the device became larger and more complex. Virtuix later stopped offering the consumer treadmill to focus on VR arcades. Now, location-based VR has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, although Virtuix says it’s resuming installations for business customers.
The Omni One’s release date was moved up amid a surge of pandemic-driven enthusiasm for high-end home fitness tech. Virtuix describes the treadmill as something like a Peloton bike for gamers and selling it in a similar price range — while fitness isn’t the primary focus, you’ll definitely be moving a lot in this thing. If the Omni One finds a niche (which is, obviously, far from certain) Virtuix will have come full circle by finally making home VR treadmills happen.