“It’s about the continuity of the experience,” said Brad Factor. “It’s about maintaining that immersion. It’s about ease of use and the learning curve: not needing to teach somebody how to use VR, but just being able to put on the headset and experience the virtual world naturally. That’s a lot of what we’re focusing on.”
Factor, the founder and CEO of a company called Ekto VR, has invented what is, in essence, a pair of chunky, cyberpunk-looking moonwalking boots for use in virtual reality environments. If Dorothy wore ruby slippers to travel in safety through the magical, technicolor land of Oz in The Wizard of Oz, then Factor’s invention is designed to allow similarly safe travel through VR.
Ever wonder how it’s possible to create a convincing VR scenario that lets you, say, trek through the Sahara Desert without the painful, immersion-breaking experience of colliding with a wall in your apartment? Ekto VR believes it has the answer: Slip on a pair of the company’s simulator boots over your regular shoes, don a VR headset, and you’re able to experience walking through virtual environments that are far, far larger than the physical space you’re contained within.
- Ekto VR’s boots work by using an array of motorized wheels on their underside, which spin counter to the speed that the user is walking in. In order to avoid motion sickness, the boots allow the wearer to initially take several steps forward. This is done to provide the necessary vestibular inner-ear cues to tell their bodies that they are accelerating forward. However, after a few steps, the boots automatically glide the wearer back to the center of the room so that they appear to be walking on the spot, as if on a treadmill. Meanwhile, the user believes they are continuing to make forward progress — and, based on the VR scene they’re experiencing, they are.