When TechCrunch went to Beijing recently, I got the chance to try out KatVR’s Kat Walk virtual reality walking simulation rig. The setup encircles the player’s waste, keeping them upright no matter what’s going on in virtual space, while the special shoes and a slick plastic pad, both laden with sensors, help translate your perambulation into virtual action.
The VR setup isn’t designed for home use; there’s a $9,000 price tag, for one, and it takes up an awful lot of space. But KatVR is already selling these to arcades in China, which are investing in virtual reality in a big way. And down the road, the idea is to come up with a version that could work for consumers.
Using it with a demo shooter was absolutely immersive. The Vive headset and controller delivered a very good, and highly accurate sense of being in the environment, which was basically an interactive outdoor training compound for some kind of soldiers. Using the pad at first caused me some anxiety, but once you realize you’re not going to fall or slip, stepping comes quite naturally and it’s terrific how closely it can track your movement and orientation in-game.
Kat Walk and other systems like it are the future of VR – at least until we’re comfortable with neural implants that mimic physical sensations without us actually having to experience them through our outdated meat bodies.