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.