Omnifinity, a start-up based out of Sweden, announced today the release of their Omnideck 6 virtual reality treadmill. Initially showcased as part of The Gadget Show’s ‘Ultimate Battlefield 3 Simulator’ and touted as the first 360 degree treadmill in gaming, the Omnideck 6 aims to be the link between virtual gaming and reality: finally giving us a way to interact with environments in a real way other than mouse and keyboard or stationary treadmill.
Although Omnifinity was formed by MSE Engineer, a firm known mostly for combat simulation products, the Omnideck 6 seems to be heavily geared toward immersive gaming, specifically with the virtual reality headset the Oculus Rift.
Arguably the biggest complaint for users of the Oculus Rift has been the lack of real movement other than a mouse of keyboard, something Omnifinity feels they have solved. By tracking your movement and how far you travel on one of the omni-directional treadmills, the Omnideck 6 can determine how fast your character on screen is moving. The system utilizes a series of 16 motorized triangular sections of rollers with an underlying belt that moves along with the user. This guarantees that the player will not just walk right off the treadmill into a wall, and that the system can accurately track your movements up to 4.5mph.
The Omnidirect 6 comes with two options for visually representing your movement that gets registered on the treadmill system. One option, which was the original plan for the device, projects the image in front of you as you turn and walk around the virtual battlefield or game. As you can see in the ARMA 2 demo below from September, the image follows around wherever the user is looking, giving near total immersion into the environment.
The other new, more sophisticated solution is an Oculus Rift. Not only does using an Oculus greatly reduce the cost of the system, but it arguably provides a better layer of immersion as your entire field of view is nothing but the virtual world. The downside to this, of course, is that it requires a connection to either a desktop gaming PC nearby, or even a laptop mounted on the user’s back.
One big mantra of the device seems to be killing off mouse and keyboard for gaming as much possible. To achieve this, the Omnideck 6 has the capability to use several alternative input devices. The most obvious is a replica gun, being that the system is aimed for combat simulation as well as gaming. There is also the option for standard controller, such as an Xbox 360 controller, just like you can when using the Oculus Rift on its own.
All of these fancy treadmills and giant screens don’t serve any purpose without some specialized software to analyze and display it all. The Omnideck 6 software computes your walking speed by determining where you are on the treadmill from the center point, and calculates that into a workable speed that equates to how hard you’d push a joystick forward. Being that the treadmill moves with you (up to the aforementioned 4.5mph limit), it is unlikely that you’d just walk right off the platform but instead would be some distance from the center at all times. There is also the option for an optical tracking system that uses full body tracking and data tracking gloves for even more accurate movements.
One of the more interesting aspects of the system is how it can introduce environmental effects into its 19′ x 13′ environment. Heat, humidity, smoke, smell, time of day, temperature, and other factors can be simulated based on application needs.
Right now the current state of the system appears to be working on getting more developers on board to create some cool environments and uses for it, and I can’t wait. A lot of lower-end solutions for moving around in a video game have been around for years, but this appears to be highest quality one to date. While it obviously won’t be plopped down in your living room any time soon, the ability to play with it at an arcade, laser tag, or other similar venue is enough to be an exciting step into out virtual reality futures.
Your first chance to get a hands-on demo of the final product will be December 1st to the 5th when the product will be showed off at I/TSEC 2014 (Booth 1249) in Orlando, Florida.
FULL PRESS RELEASE
OMNIFINITY LAUNCHES THE OMNIDECK™ 6
THE MISSING LINK BETWEEN VIRTUAL AND REALITY
Älmhult, Sweden (November 20th, 2014) – Omnifinity, the Swedish developer of solutions for natural movement in the virtual world, today unveiled the new Omnideck 6 after two years development on the omnidirectional treadmill first exposed on The Gadget Show’s ‘Ultimate Battlefield 3 Simulator’.
The increasing popularity of Virtual Reality headsets has opened up new visual possibilities in the gaming and simulation fields, yet users are still chained to their oldfashioned input devices. The revolution of using the Omnideck 6 will lead to the ultimate demise of keyboard warriors.
“Growing up as a gamer I dreamt of the day when I could run, walk, jump or crawl in a game, and I’m proud to say that day has now arrived! Gaming and simulation is only the beginning, as we see opportunities in many different industries”, Omnifinity Sales Manager Richard Guilfoyle said.
The core of the Omnideck 6 solution is a 6m wide omnidirectional motorised treadmill combined with optical tracking technology. Natural body movements are then translated seamlessly into the default input commands of any game or simulation software.
“The effectiveness of the Omnideck will improve infantry training methods, just like the success of flight simulators for pilots”, Daniel Hopstadius, CEO of Omnifinity said. The first opportunity to get hands on with the Omnideck is next month between December 1st and December 5th, when the product is showcased at I/ITSEC 2014 (Booth #1249), in Orlando, Florida.
Omnifinity is open to opportunities to work with hardware and software with the aim of further evolving the Omnideck 6, and the way people move in the virtual world.