Slipping a chunky headset on your noggin and diving into a digital reality was a wonderfully inviting development in years gone past. Virtual Reality (VR) was a technology that went the way of badly marketed viewing devices and gaming platforms that eventually turned into large mechanized boxes at malls and theme parks–boxes you and your friends could climb into and sit staring at a first-person roller coaster ‘experience’ on a big screen for five minutes. Fortunately, times have changes and VR is back with a VRengeance. The VR headset is just one device delighting the depths of our viewing experience, but simply standing or sitting in a 3D environment doesn’t quite do VR justice. The Omni by Virtuix changes that… big time. It’s the first VR interface that allows you to walk, run, duck and dodge in a natural way. The applications for gaming are obvious, but this interface also brings interesting new potential for how you experience product design.

omni-vr-platform-01

Move naturally in your (3D CAD) Environment

In 3.5 hours they reached their funding goal of $150,000. Their Kickstarter campaign was a success. With an early price point of $399, they’re pushing toward the $1 Million mark with nearly 2,500 backers and loads of coverage via many a gaming and tech site. The Omni base is a grooved, low-friction surface which works in conjunction with pinned shoes that prevent slipping whilst running and skipping about. The base leads up to support that fastens around your waist for added stability. It all started with several prototypes. “The Omni prototypes are made from wood and steel in our machine shop.” says Jan Goetgeluk, CEO of Virtuix, “We used SolidWorks for the design of these prototypes.”

omni-vr-platform-02

The Omni allows you to become completely immersed in your environment, fits a a small corner of your room and comes “ready to play, out of the box, with any game or app that uses keyboard input,” reads the Kickstarter page. It’s completely compatible with the Oculus Rift VR headset and the games launching with the device August 2013. (On June 17th, Oculus VR announced a 16 million round of finance from Spark Capital and Matrix Partners–VR is hot.) That you could slip on a headset to start developing with a CAD application seems a natural use of the technology. While we wouldn’t be surprised if some CAD software developers are testing the Oculus, others are already exploring the application that it has for complex CAD visualization. MakeVR is a creative modeling application that is compatible with the Oculus and would be the first modeling software you could develop with while strapped into the Omni.

You may not be running and gunning about as you would in an intense scene of Half Life 2, but the applications for use in product development are interesting. “3D product development is definitely a good application for the Omni (and VR in general). Eon Reality, for example, has come by and tried out the Omni.” explains Jan, “Our software translates body motions to key strokes that drive an avatar in the virtual world. Any virtual environment that can be navigated via keystrokes (WASD commands) can be explored with the Omni. As such, any design program that allows you to walk around in the virtual design world could be steered by your physical moves on the Omni.”

For the time being though, it’s all games, all day and you can see just a few of the amazing game demos on the Viruix website. Having launched their Kickstarter campaign June 4th, the Omni is still available for $429 with shipping estimated for January 2014. Pre-orders and retail availability information are sure to come on the Virtuix website.

Is this a device you see as useful for product design and development or something to keep in the game room at home?

omni-vr-platform

Author

Josh is founder and editor at SolidSmack.com, founder at Aimsift Inc., and co-founder of EvD Media. He is involved in engineering, design, visualization, the technology making it happen, and the content developed around it. He is a SolidWorks Certified Professional and excels at falling awkwardly.