There’s no shortage of people trying to make virtual reality gaming a more immersive experience. There are VR arenas where people strap on PC backpacks and play in a pre-programmed area. There are gloves and shoes, and even VR treadmills. Nothing seems to have that full immersion factor, though, either because the person playing still needs to sit down to game, the haptic technology isn’t responsive enough, or because the headset is too large and expensive. But now software engineer Alexander Evans is making his own 3D-printed VR shoes, and they look like the best VR accessory to date.
Evans posted his creation, which kind of looks like an ‘80s moonshoe prototype, to Reddit a few days ago. Each shoe has one track of horizontally facing wheels and one track of vertically facing wheels—or omnidirectional wheels. There’s also a motor attached to each battery-powered shoe to help control movement. Users don’t need to necessarily lift their feet off the ground, either. The shoes are heavy, but are designed to give users the ability to glide in multiple directions.
Evans noted in his blog that the shoes should be used with a safety harness mounted to the ceiling, which will prevent the user from rolling into any walls and possibly injuring themselves or breaking something while wearing a VR headset. That seems to indicate that the garage would be the best place for this. Apartment dwellers might have to talk with their landlord if they want to install a safety harness in their kitchen or bedroom.
Also, at present the shoes have to be manually controlled with an Android app, but Evans is working with the software to automate movement and integrate it with VR games.
If the movement seems a little ridged or awkward, that’s mostly due to the manual controls.
“I did not expect them to be very responsive or stable at this point. Still, for the very first tests, they worked well,” he wrote.
He also plans to support crouching in the future, as well as “jogging speed,” but doesn’t think the shoes will support a “full-out sprint.” The issue is adding shocks to the whole design, he said. He has made his design for anyone to use and improve upon, too. The 3D-printing files can be downloaded from GitHub.
It seems like these shoes could help with motion sickness. There’s only theories at this point as to why VR makes some people sick and not others, but one of those theories is sensory conflict: When your brain sees itself moving in the game but doesn’t feel itself moving, it can cause confusion. Our bodies naturally dip and sway when we walk, and our eyes detect that slight movement. To see that movement but not physically feel it can cause some people to feel sick.
When I play VR games in first person, I don’t feel sick if I’m stationary in the game, but the second I start walking or running, a wave of nausea blasts my entire head. I haven’t had the opportunity to test any VR mobility setups, but I would try these motorized shoes in a heartbeat.