These Electric “Treadmill Shoes” Could Boost The World Of VR Gaming

Electric “treadmill shoes” by UK/US startup Freeaim promise to revolutionize VR gaming, allowing gamers to walk through virtual worlds with unprecedented realism. These innovative shoes, essentially wearable treadmills, aim to solve the long-standing challenge of replicating natural walking in VR environments.

Replicating users’ real-world head and arm movements in VR is straightforward, but walking is trickier. Gamers can’t physically traverse the distances they cover in VR games without running into obstacles in real life. Traditionally, omnidirectional treadmills have addressed this issue. These treadmills are slippery, bowl-shaped platforms that keep users in place by continuously moving their feet inward. However, many users report that walking on these platforms feels more like skating or awkwardly pushing against the inside of a dish. Moreover, omnidirectional treadmills are large, expensive, and require users to be supported by a harness or railing.

Freeaim’s VR Shoes offer a more practical and immersive solution. Resembling electric roller skates, these shoes require users to stand on a square area of hard floor measuring at least 2 by 2 meters (6.6 ft). As the user steps forward with one leg, omnidirectional wheel modules on the other shoe move that leg back, preventing forward progress across the floor. If the user moves too far toward the edge of their walking area, the shoes gently return them to the center.

In the current system, users can turn while walking or jogging, rotate in place, and take sidesteps. Future versions will support walking backward and unlimited sidestepping by pivoting the wheel modules perpendicular to the shoes. Compatible with any VR headset supported by SteamVR, Freeaim VR Shoes work with most PC-based VR games featuring walkable environments.

Thanks to recent funding, a developer version of the shoes is now available to corporate clients for $4,999 a pair. Freeaim co-founder Alex Evans indicates a consumer model will be released next year for about $1,000. CEO Ashley Foxcroft, who co-founded the company in 2021, emphasizes the potential of these shoes to transform VR gaming by offering a more natural and immersive walking experience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *