Virtuix Virtual Reality Startup creates a VR treadmill for your home. The Omni One is an elaborate full-body controller which allows you to run, leap and crouch in place physically. Following an earlier business- and arcade-focused device, it is expected to ship for $1,995 in mid-2021, and Virtuix is announcing the product with a crowdfunding investment campaign.
The crowdfunded Virtuix Omni began production in 2013. It’s not a conventional treadmill, it’s a low-friction platform that is used with unique low-friction shoes or shoe covers and a belt. (You may recall Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One’s overall VR treadmill concept.) As an Omni One prototype video reveals, the system effectively keeps you in position while your feet slide across the platform, and that movement is converted into a VR environment.
The Omni One is more lightweight than its predecessors, and instead of a ring around the entire treadmill, it anchors users to a single vertical bar. Often, you can fold it up and put it away. It will play games from a dedicated store that is expected to launch with 30 titles. Virtuix does not have a complete list, but it aims to include third-party games alongside the experiences it creates itself, with the latter category containing Fortnite and Call of Duty.
The retail Omni One will be a standalone headset system, which is being tested with a Pico Neo 2, but Virtuix will decide which headset to use in the coming months for retail. Only the treadmill part will be included in a $995 developer kit. Virtuix is introducing a Regulation A funding campaign for consumers who want the full kit, which allows businesses to sell shares through a crowdfunding-style process. Fans of the concept must invest a minimum of $1,000, and in return, they will get a 20% discount on consumer Omni One, or a 40% discount if they invest in the first week.
These investments are not defined by Virtuix as “preorders.” VR crowdfunding projects can be a high-risk proposition, as markets and technology can change rapidly as a product is designed by companies. Virtuix delivered on its commitments much better than other VR startups, but the intent of the Omni continued to evolve over time. It was conceived as a home gaming machine that would ship all over the world, but after the product grew larger and more complex, Virtuix was forced to cancel some preorders. Now, location-based VR has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, although Virtuix says it’s resuming installations for business customers.
The Omni One’s release date was pushed up amid a surge of pandemic-driven enthusiasm for high-end home fitness tech. Virtuix describes the treadmill as something like a gamers’ Peloton bike and sells it in a similar price range, while exercise is not the primary focus, you’re certainly going to be running a lot in this thing. If the Omni One finds a niche (which is, clearly, far from certain), Virtuix will have come full circle by finally making home VR treadmills happen.