Jan Goetgeluk Talks About The Omni

by Gregory Laporte Editor Vice President on March 17, 2013 at 08:55 PM EDT
Follow me on Twitter: @theownerz
If you haven’t heard there is a new device called the Omni. It’s essentially a treadmill that allows for gamers and other to walk in the virtual realm of their game or environment. It allows for a truly immersive experience. We reached out to Jan Goetgeluk from Virtuix to find out more. Here is what we learned.

GamerFitNation: Tell US about Virtuix as a company. When did it start? Who is the Criminal Mastermind? I know it’s a lot but please take your time.

Jan Goetgeluk: The project that eventually became the Virtuix Omni started about 2 years ago.  Microsoft had just launched the Kinect, and hackers had started to break into the device and create fascinating applications. I realized that the Kinect, with its ability to track someone’s full body optically without the need for cumbersome sensors, could be a game changer for full body virtual reality. We initially explored potential software applications for the Kinect, but the true missing link in full body VR is a locomotion device that allows you to walk around in the virtual world.

No omni treadmill exists that is affordable to household consumers or fits in a living room, so we are trying to fill this void. After extensive research, experimenting and prototyping, I believe we have accomplished to develop the first omni treadmill that meets three crucial objectives: being affordable to household consumers, being compact enough to fit in a living room, and above all, enabling a user to walk freely and naturally in virtual environments.

GamerFitNation: The omni is a device that is getting a lot of buzz. It’s been on a lot of reputable sites including ours. What has been the reaction from the team so far?

Jan Goetgeluk: We are in the early stages of disclosing our work and progress publicly, so the positive feedback is exciting for the team after more than a year of work behind closed doors. More so, it is an encouragement for us to work hard every day to keep improving the Omni and bring it to all gamers and VR enthusiasts.

GamerFitNation: Now you have a few videos circling around the web of the omni being used with Skyrim and Crysis. Why these games? Is this something that is strictly for first person shooters or will other games eventually use this in the future?

Jan Goetgeluk: The Omni will work best with games that allow you to walk or run around, enjoy the beautiful scenery and interact with the environment, such as Skyrim. First person shooters are fun too, but to augment the experience, we need to decouple the looking direction from the walking direction and even the gun aiming direction. Then you would have true virtual reality. We are working on that.

GamerFitNation: Now are your looking to kickstart this project? If so, how much are you going to be asking backers to donate?

Jan Goetgeluk: The pricing is not confirmed yet. We are conducting a manufacturing study to get a detailed view on costs. The strongest advantage of the Omni is that it has no moving parts or electronics, so we hope to be able to keep the cost down as much as possible.

GamerFitNation: Will this eventually come to retail in some way, shape, or form?

Jan Goetgeluk: We sure hope so, but not in its current form. The Omni that will be presented and offered on Kickstarter will not be plug-n-play, but will be purely a hardware device with basic Kinect support software. The user will still be responsible to provide VR glasses, Kinect, remote controller and a PC (even though we might offer some of these peripherals by having bundled reward tiers).

The Kickstarter will mainly be geared towards developers and VR or gaming enthusiasts that are not deterred by having to bring other pieces to the overall puzzle. To be a full end-user product, however, the Omni needs to become a fully integrated solution with integrated tracking, software, etc.

The ultimate end-game of VR is a fully integrated VR set-up for household consumers for a $1,000 price point.  Then you are creating a whole new consumer market, much like the PC did in the 90’s.

GamerFitNation: With a device such as this one have you looked to hardware manufactures to potential work with them in producing new gaming experiences with this fitness tech?

Jan Goetgeluk: We are in the early stages of starting conversations with possible manufacturing partners.  That effort will become priority in the next couple of weeks. The immersion of physically walking around in a virtual environment is mind blowing. With devices like the Omni and Oculus Rift, the gaming and fitness experience is about to enter a new dimension.

GamerFitNation: Talk about the fitness aspect of the Omni. Have you done any internal or external testing with concerns to weight loss?

Jan Goetgeluk: Playing a game on the Omni is certainly a good work-out. I have not done any formal testing, but I can feel my legs after a day of experimenting with the device. It is definitely keeping me in shape right now! The Omni also allows for running and jumping, which opens a variety of possibilities for new fitness applications.

GamerFitNation: There are a lot of tech events that are prevalent with the fitness and technology community. The most prominent being CES. Have you ever put this product on display their or is that coming in the near future?

Jan Goetgeluk: We have been holding private demo sessions behind closed doors, most recently at SXSW in Austin, where we demo’d the device for Palmer Luckey from Oculus, Paul Bettner, Chris Roberts and others. We are still in the prototyping phase, but we certainly plan to display the Omni publicly at tech events in the future once the Omni is taking its final shape.

GamerFitNation: Finally, what do you want readers to know about your omni? The company? As well as anything else that I may have missed?

Jan Goetgeluk: In the latest video, the Kinect is only recognizing basic walking motion. We are working to improve our software and implement additional moves: sprinting, jumping, strafing (side-ways stepping), crouching and even hand/arm movements. The Omni allows for running, jumping, backwards stepping, etc., so implementing these movements into the game experience would only increase the immersion.

The Omni used in the videos is a clunky prototype, but the final product will be much more compact. Our latest prototype (see attached pictures) is going in the right direction. The Omni will be easy to disassemble and store away in order to fulfill the so-called “wife acceptance” factor.

To stay updated on our progress and Kickstarter plans, you can follow us on Facebook or Twitter:

Thanks Jan for taking out the time to talk to us. if you are interested in the Omni go and take a look at their kickstarter and help them out.

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