Locomotion in VR still has a ways to go before it’s where it needs to be. Developers have created some great ways to traverse VR landscapes, my favorites being blink teleportation and free locomotion. Still, we’re not really getting the sense as gamers that we’re actually moving. CyberShoes hopes to make an impact in VR locomotion that may completely change the landscape.
There are a few dreams being sold at CES 2019, one of the big ones being a truly wireless VR experience. Not tethered to anything, and free to move, both Oculus and HTC have released their version of a truly wireless experience.
These are exciting prospects, but Cybershoes is trying something interesting. With simple attachments to the feet, players can stroll through virtual worlds truly walking in place or over short distances.
CyberShoes at CES 2019
Users are fitted with Cybershoes, which attach to the undersides of the shoes. It probably could be worn barefoot, but doesn’t seem particularly comfortable that way. After the user is fitted, he or she straps on the Cybershoes and the real experience begins.
The demo at CES explored Bethesda titles, either the frantic shooting of Doom or the more serene but still deadly Skyrim. Most testers describe using the device as something between walking and skating. The tester is seated on a swivel chair, part of a large base fitted with an anti-static mat. Freely able to spin and move, the game feels like a full 360 degree and immersive world.
Cybershoes are a bit like wearing roller blades that help you move while you stand in place. Almost like moonwalking, you lift your feet and legs as you would to take a step and the game responds to your motions. The chair is there for balance, and for assistance.
The company says that the device will work with any game that utilizes trackpad motion, so it probably outputs as the trackpad. If so, the device would be open to a large library of games basically on release. Most major VR titles are incorporating free locomotion.
First, let’s get the difficult news out of the way: Cybershoes will retail for $400. The good news is that the device comes with a swivel chair the user can sit on to move in, and an anti-static mat. You don’t want all that static charge building up during your hour long stroll through the ruins of old Boston or Skyrim.
Pains and Potential Cons
Cybershoes sound really cool, but there are a few things that users should be aware of. First, the device does require some calibration before it works properly with your machine. You need to learn how they work too, like training yourself to walk. Fortunately, by most reports, this process isn’t too painful.
Cybershoes also has to connect to your PC, and it doesn’t appear to have wiring problems the way the Vive does.
Overall, without a release date we are certifiably hyped for Cybershoes.
Cybershoes, the Quest, and the Promise of VR
The ideal of VR is untethered, unrestricted movement. The user should be fully immersed in audio and visual stimuli with the body as the controller. Cybershoes and the Oculus Quest come pretty close to fully realizing that ambitious dream.
Movement and motion sickness are a big deal in VR. If Cybershoes provide a consistent and useful solution to this problem, it’s a must buy. I noticed that my motion sickness decreased when I reduced the resolution of my games in VR, and then when I upgraded my GPU. I believe some of the motion sickness tied to VR relates to performance, but it’s still a challenge every developer has to overcome. Especially if the game has ambitions higher than a shooting gallery.
Fitness enthusiasts especially will appreciate performance on the Bethesda titles, or in games like Sairento. Wall running would be awesome in Cybershoes. What about Creed? Users could user Cybershoes to move around the ring and charge back to a body instead of the (in my opinion) clunky movement system currently in place.
Right now, the only games guaranteed to work are the Bethesda titles and Arizona Sunshine, but more will come. The price tag also represents a potential barrier, as users would be looking at a $700+ price tag for the Quest and Cybershoes to get a premium experience.
It’s a tough sell. For enthusiasts, the device is a no brainer. For the rest of the population? Cybershoes may have some growing pains even if it’s amazing new technology.