Examiner caught up with Chief Executive Officer of Virtuix Jan Goetgeluk earlier this month at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo to discuss the company's upcoming Kickstarter-funded virtual reality treadmill, the Omni, and the future of VR gaming. We were also given a hands-on with TRAVR, an Omni-exclusive horror first-person shooter, which you can read all about here.
For our full exclusive interview, read on.
Examiner: Tell us a little bit about [the Omni].
Jan Goetgeluk: The Virtuix Omni is the first ever virtual reality treadmill that allows you to walk around in video games. It's in essence an omnidirectional treadmill that enables you to walk, run and jump in 360 degrees and it puts your mind and your body into the video game.
Ex: And when and how did you come up with this idea?
JG: I started working on this three years ago. I thought virtual reality, you know, would be the next best thing. I was always special about the technology. And to me, I do not want to sit down on a chair with a headset on, pushing buttons on a gamepad or keyboard, I want to walk around in that virtual world, and for that you’d need an omnidirectional treadmill, [but] there was nothing out there. That’s why I started developing the Omni, to allow VR users to just physically walk around and be part of that VR world.
We brought the Omni to the public for the first time last year when we did our Kickstarter campaign, so we raised $1.1 million on Kickstarter, and we’ve sold now more than 3,000 units in pre-orders, the first of which will be shipped in the fourth quarter of this year.
Ex: Did you think that you would come this far so quickly?
JG: Eh, you know, I’m a VR enthusiast so I believed that VR would appeal to a lot of people, and it’s great to know that big believers are also stepping into VR and there’s a lot of excitement around VR now because the technology is here, and the technology is here to stay because it’s such a great experience.
And the Omni solves a great part of VR, which is how do we physically move around? You just don’t want to sit down. Well, to move around we have the Omni.
Ex: Was gaming always at the core of this experience that you wanted to create?
JG: Yeah, gaming is the first and most obvious application, VR has always also focused on gaming, but gaming is just the beginning, it’s just the tip of the iceberg. You can think of virtual tourism, training and simulation, education, health care, there are so many applications of VR and of the Omni way beyond gaming.
Ex: So, where do you see the Omni in about five years?
JG: Virtual reality now is still an early market. Next year, when [Oculus VR] ships their consumer product [Oculus Rift], when Sony ships their product [Project Morpheus], Samsung, then you’ll see VR becoming this market medium, and we’ll be ready for that.
We target home consumers, people that buy the Omni for their homes, for their game room, to play with the Omni at home. But we also get a lot of inbounds from arcades. I think we’ll see a revival of the virtual reality arcade, or entertainment centers that offer virtual reality. That’s an exciting route, as well.
Ex: How strong of a PC would we need to use [the Omni]?
JG: Any PC that plays your games is more than good enough for the Omni, because the Omni, in essence, in it’s most basic form is just a game controller. It basically translates your motions into gamepad inputs...in it’s most basic form. You could do much more with it than just that, but it has its advantage that the Omni can be played with any game out of the box. You could play Battlefield, Call of Duty, Minecraft, Skyrim, you name it. All these games can be played with the Omni.
Ex: Are there any major developers or publishers that have approached you?
JG: Yeah, we’re in touch with some of the big waves, as well. Nothing formal to announce there, but certainly with the high interest in VR, there’s a lot of exciting stuff happening.
Ex: Will the Omni work with Morpheus?
JG: For now the Omni is focusing on PC, but certainly in the future we’d like to offer console support, as well, so that’s something we will be working on in the future.
Ex: So what’s your next step?
Our next step and our highest priority is to get the Omni shipped to our Kickstarter backers, to our pre-order customers.
Be sure to check out Virtuix's latest gameplay video, which released yesterday, above.