The Simulacrum, an innovative solution to walking in Virtual Reality

If you’ve been following along with immersive gaming, even casually, you’ve probably considered the difficulty in trying to do a comfortable and believable “walk” in a game. The first thing that usually pops into peoples minds are Omni Directional Treadmills, or ODTs. There are many problems with these, one of the biggest simply being cost. They’re very expensive.

[Zalo] at the MTBS3d forums has been working on his own very cost effective solution called the “Simulacrum”. He has built this for under $100 and it allows for a walking motion to be translated into the game. As you can see in the video below it works fairly well, even when one is out of commission for repairs (hence the limp).

As you can see, each foot lift sends a signal to the console to move forward for a specified interval. That alone would be very easy to reproduce, but he has taken this a step further to allow for natural turning as well. Each pad is actually capable of spinning on its vertical axis allowing you to swivel your feet somewhat naturally. As you lift your foot, the pad snaps back to forward so your real body maintains its forward orientation while your virtual body turns.

It is really an interesting and fairly simple solution to a complicated problem, even if it isn’t perfect. At some point in the thread, [Zalo] mentions that he has tabled the idea as he kept accidentally walking off cliffs using the “lift for forward” method. Hopefully he’ll pick it back up and think of a solution.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on this as well as some other ideas in anticipation of getting our Oculus Rift.

Comments

  1. Thopter says:

    Perhaps the addition of some sensors to the device to detect if the lifted foot is moving forward or backward relative to the other.

  2. fartface says:

    pretty useless in a game where you need to be not stopping every 1/2 second then think about turning.

    • G-Reg says:

      “As you can see in the video below it works fairly well, even when one is out of commission for repairs (hence the limp).”

      Read before tossing your negative comments, deal?

      • gabriel says:

        still, comparing one foot button with omni directional threadmill is far fetched.

        also, what’s the usability issues about turning by turning your feet while it’s on the floor? nobody turns like that. you turn while moving your feet in the air (like the guy does in the video several times with no result in the game). and what about having one feet static and another one turning? should the game turn?

        this is just a mouse + a button on your foot. i don’t think t would contribute to immersion any more then pressing W to move forward. unfortunately.

  3. obviously says:

    I’m guessing that if this patented by Nintendo already, it will be by Monday.

  4. Zalo says:

    Yikes! That video isn’t in a state yet for hackaday! Though I adore hackaday and I commend the author for getting most of it right, the only little change since this is adding a manual treadmill that measures the real locomotion. The foot platform is intended as merely a means of turning left and right (semi) naturally while walking on the treadmill. The critique here is completely valid for this iteration of the system (though it should clarified that all real turning of the body takes place when the foot exerts a torsional force on the ground). I realize the odds of getting on hackaday twice for the same project are low, but is there a chance I can come back when I have a video of the treadmill/simulacrum working together? Thanks so much for explaining the ODT problem. I hope others are inspired to concoct their own solutions!

  5. user420 says:

    finally, weight loss for the warcraft crowd!

  6. willrandship says:

    I don’t see how this helps any situation that already has body tracking ie kinect-based at all. They could already count footsteps.

  7. Mikey says:

    This is kind of silly — the advantage omni-directional treadmills give is that you can actually *walk* — and there is even momentum and such. If you just want to stomp your feet and count that as walking, any Kinect (or clone) will do.

  8. Robert Eastwood says:

    Put 4 mice on a shoe, where when a foot slides back on toes(2 wheels) it indicates walking, add harness to ceiling or a granny walker like harness behind a person, and you could even have a foot moving forward in the air while doing that. sidestepping left to right would be easy also, to move left (slide right foot out, lift left leg. Then put left leg down, and move right foot back to normal position.)

    Anyone think MJ moonwalking was a comment from some guy in a VR suit?

    You can send profits for the idea to Bob Eastwood

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