Input Virtual Reality

You want to sit while you navigate virtual reality, Ergo, VRGO

editors-choiceMovement is the biggest obstacle yet to be solved for true virtual reality experiences. While there are locomotion setups on the market that attempt to address the issue, not many people have the money nor the space to install and maintain them as they’re usually larger.

Inventor Joe Ryan’s VRGO is a VR controller in the form of a self-righting, egg-shaped seat. Made of aircraft composite for strength and weighing at only four kilograms, the wireless motion controller seat connects with the touch of a button using Bluetooth to PCs, Macs and headsets like Oculus Rift to facilitate more involved VR experiences.

Cell Phone Accessories Imaging Virtual Reality

Shot iPhone accessory takes a shot at virtual reality market

Virtual reality has become one of the hottest new technologies. But at least some of the devices using the technology are costly. Others –- like the AirVR mount that just straps a mobile device to the user’s head –- look even less comfortable and more awkward than the bulkiest of virtual reality headsets.

Shot is an affordable lens attachment for iPhones that, combined with an accompanying app, creates virtual reality videos and photos that can be shared. The attachment easily slides onto the smartphone and is made up of its own two lenses that increase the field of view of the smartphone’s camera.

Input Virtual Reality

The Gloveone virtual reality controller deserves a hand

Recent hardware announcements from companies like Oculus and HTC have promised new controller mechanisms to interact with the virtual worlds they’re building, proving how important the tactile aspect of virtual reality will be. However novel these controllers are, though, they’re just stopgaps to the eventual solution: a way to completely feel all sorts of feedback from weight to texture to temperature.

Realistically, it’s a long way off, but NeuroDigital is making an effort to get there faster with their Gloveone gloves. The gloves equipped with ten haptic actuators on each, capable of independently vibrating at different frequencies to replicate the sensations of feeling. With these actuators, the product can reproduce the sensations that go along with situations like rain, or the handling of a small apple, all to more fully immerse the participant.

Input Video Games Virtual Reality

Get a jump on your virtual foes with the PAO omni-directional treadmill

At the moment, virtual reality is in a weird place. As refined as the technology currently is, virtual reality goers are still likely to experience motion sickness. Additionally, the illusion of virtual reality quick dissipates when users are forced to stay still and use some sort of controller to facilitate the experience.

Like many others before it, PAO aims to solve this immersion problem with a multi-directional treadmill. Not only is it designed to translate a person’s movement in any direction, it can also translate squats and jumps. What’s more, the product can be used with virtual reality headsets, traditional gaming consoles, and even Android devices. A PAO can be purchased for $300, with an expected ship date of December 2015. The Kickstarter campaign is looking to secure $10,000 in funding by May 20.

PAO is extremely similar to its predecessor, the Virtuix Omni, save for its current pre-production status. As a result, the Omni is a much more refined product, something reflected in its $699 price tag, not to mention its 160lb product weight and the large list of accessories it can be used with.  In comparison, the PAO is more than half of the Virtuix Omni’s size and costs less than half. Notably, the PAO doesn’t require users to wear specialized shoes like the Omni does. If PAO can ensure that these benefits remain in place when the final production unit ships, it will prove a worthy and compelling purchase for gamers looking for a full and immersive virtual reality experience.

Input Virtual Reality

Ground Control VR feet controllers keep you grounded while you flail your arms

Although virtual reality is poised to take the world by the storm at some point, that point is still a long way off. One of the biggest reasons why the promise of a fully immersive virtual reality hasn’t yet been fulfilled is because it’s challenging to create a world that users can effectively move around within.

patent-claimedReality Abstraction Industries is entering an already crowded arena with a new entrant, the Ground Control four axis joystick. Now, this isn’t a joystick for the hands, but rather for the feet, topped with a foot panel users can slide, rotate, or tilt in the real world to walk, run, jump, or turn in the virtual one. The product comes pre-configured, but each axis is customizable so that users can tailor them to their exact preferences. The Ground Control foot controllers cost $250 and are expected to ship in January 2016. Reality Abstraction Industries is looking for about $200,000 for molds and production by April 24.

While the product isn’t completely finished just yet, it does try to tackle the locomotion problem which has long been a hindrance on advancing the state of VR. Unfortunately, there are already a number of other extremely similar products on the market, like the 3DRudder, that do pretty much the same thing. Their downsides include a limited demographic appeal along with Windows-only support, to factors which clearly demonstrate the need for new concepts instead of rehashing older ones.

Input Virtual Reality

Impression Pi virtual reality headset tries to make an impression, gets a meh instead

Everyone is searching for the holy grail of virtual reality. In the meantime, companies from all over the world are busy throwing everything at the wall in an effort to see what sticks. Currently, Oculus Rift is the obvious leader, but with upstarts from companies like HTC and Valve,  SamsungMicrosoft, and all the other little guys vying for attention through crowdfunding platforms, the landscape is bursting at the seams.

Impression Pi is another combination virtual reality, augmented reality mobile headset that works with iOS and Android smartphones, provided they have 5 inch displays or larger. By combining accurate head tracking capabilities, gesture control, and both VR and AR environmental overlays, users can transform their real world surroundings into virtual environments capable of being traversed with the Impression Pi’s ability to track positioning. The Impression Pi’s interface also allows for social media engagement, not to mention movie viewing and gaming as well. Even better, all of this is possible with just a flick of the finger and the wave of a hand. $279 gets backers the smartphone version while $359 will get backers the Master edition which can be used sans smartphone. If the $78,000 goal sees success by May 5, 2015, backers can expect their own Impression Pi in December 2015.

Impression Pi treads on familiar ground. The ShareVR is another mobile VR solution, although it has to be tethered to a PC — ultimately limiting the “mobile” aspect of the design. Another gesture-enabled VR product is the Pinć VR, a headset which can be folded into a smartphone case. The Impression Pi may be powerful enough to create environments, but it isn’t as portable as the Pinć VR. The latter proves its usefulness in more real-world situations, while the Impression Pi is stuck at home. With no compelling use cases in the pipeline, the Impression Pi will likely have a tough time garnering support.

Cycling Virtual Reality

WideRun VR lets you bike through any world while staying put

There’s nothing like a long, challenging bike ride on a crisp day surrounded by the hustle and bustle of city life or the lush landscapes of nature. Granted, this is only true so long as there’s no rain, sleet, snow or extremely cold temperatures. Put simply, inclement weather is a cyclist’s biggest enemy, often leading to missed opportunities for both pleasure and fitness.

WideRun’s marriage of both cycling and virtual reality eliminates the tedium of stationary biking, offering eager cyclists a chance to ride in diverse environments when they’re forced to stay indoors. Of course, the biggest challenge with all VR experiences is achieving a suitable level of immersion. WideRun’s system accomplishes this by employing a bike trainer engineered to apply pedal resistance and let cyclists turn their handlebars; these two variables are essential in convincing riders that they’re riding the Great Wall of China or through an abandoned, zombie-infested city.

While WideRun is compatible with any bike, it is currently only compatible with the Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and smart TVs (for those who don’t have access to a VR headset). No matter which route a cyclist chooses to take, WideRun must be connected to a smartphone or PC. In exchange, the software lets users check their performance, ride with community members, and challenge other riders as a means to keep things interesting.

The full system can be had for $446 with an expected ship date of April 2016. The campaign is looking for $44,475 in funding by May 2, 2015.

While WideRun claims its pedal resistance can successfully mirror the feeling of riding uphill, it may not do enough. Because the system lacks the means to transmit other types of feedback — like bumps in the road or uneven paths — the fullness of the experience might be compromised. Still, the product is very well thought out, sporting similarities to the VirtuixOmni.

Fitness Input Virtual Reality

Revisit your virtual stomping grounds and break a sweat with Stompz VR foot sensors

The promise of virtual reality is, at the same time, plagued with a number of real problems which can hinder the entire experience. The biggest problem yet to be solved involves how users can experience unlimited movement within very real, limited spaces. Because omni-directional treadmills and other wonky solutions aren’t ripe for the mainstream, reducing movement to controllers remains a necessary sacrifice.

patent-claimedStompz  is a product which allows VR enthusiasts to use their own two legs and avoid bumping into walls in the process. The product comes in the form of two sensors, each containing a nine-axis motion tracker, that attach to sneakers. Walking in place will map the same experience over to the virtual world, while walking slightly faster will translate into a run, providing a low intensity workout at the same time. The inputs themselves are fully customizable, so users have control over how to walk backwards, jump, sprint, etc. Stompz isn’t limited to the feet, though, as the motion trackers are versatile enough to be used with fitness equipment or as alternative controllers alá the Wii Nunchuks. Interested backers looking for a new way to use their headsets can shell out $125 for the Stompz kit, expected in December 2015. The campaign is looking for $100,000 in funding by April 10.

This product targets an extremely niche market of gamers looking to experiment with alternative forms of input when it comes to VR, something that is both very necessary but still a ways away from being successful. Products like Stompz and 3DRudder are the closest approximations to mainstream solutions currently available — and neither does a great job. Until a truly all-in-one solution comes along, these products will serve as testing beds until a product comes along and does it just right.

Imaging Input Virtual Reality

Ovrvision Oculus Rift attachment lets users create their own virtual reality

Since the Oculus Rift was introduced to the world, the dream of a fully immersive virtual reality experience has been closer than ever before. Some people, however, are not content with waiting for what the Oculus team has planned and have taken to personally shaping the type of virtual reality experience they desire. Ovrvision is one such example.

Ovrvision works by augmenting the current Oculus Rift experience. It accomplishes this by introducing a more immersive augmented reality experience through a dual 5MP camera system. This, in turn, allows users to do things like manipulate objects in 3D space through a combination of hand tracking, high viewing angles, and a smooth 60FPS frame rate. Additionally, the product is extremely scalable, having been demonstrated working on small robotics, for example. Ovrvision is also extremely developer friendly, supporting multiple programming languages and popular gaming engines. An Ovrvision device will set you back $284 and is slated to be shipped in November 2015.

Interested tinkerers and developers will undoubtedly love the chance to play around with something like Ovrvision. The use cases are endless and can potentially cover applications as far ranging as gaming and medicine. While Microsoft’s recently announced Holo Lens certainly presents a sizable challenge to Ovrvision, this product may still have some legs for those who have long dreamt of a virtual reality filled future.

Input Virtual Reality

Among VR headsets, CMoar does more with controls and expansion

Virtual reality headsets are a arriving in all sorts of materials from cardboard to more robust constructions using neoprene or metal. Every variation has its own pros and cons, which is why there are more and more being made every day.

The Cmoar is yet another alternative, aiming to impress with a smartphone-based virtual reality headset that offers 2D and 3D capability with an expansive 105° field-of-view. The team claims that the high-quality sensors inside eliminate uncomfortable drifting by improving the product’s head tracking ability. Although it’s a bit bulky, the wealth of control options on the outside of the device help with the small stuff like navigate menus, control volume, or control a smartphone’s camera. For everything else, USB ports allow for devices like Leap Motion to be installed. A Cmoar headset is $99, and is expected to ship in June 2015 if the $100,000 campaign sees success.

The headset impresses on many fronts, from media content to gaming, but isn’t the first to do so. Products like the Viewbox and Pinć VR offer experiences that aren’t as fully featured but are unique in the type of virtual reality they offer. Something that helps Cmoar is the ability to stream console and PC games right to the headset, along with its proprietary gamepad, a Wiimote rip-off — both of which help differentiate the product from the pack.