Introducing KAT Walk VR
The proliferation of modern day Virtual Reality headsets has once again led to new technological developments in the computer and video games industry. VR headsets have started to become very popular as it is now commercially available within grasp of many gamers all over the world.
Once you have the headset on, you are taken into a world that simulates near reality that totally makes you unaware of your real current surroundings. Despite the awesome experience of being totally immersed in the virtual game world, this may prove to be dangerous physically and even mentally at times.
Imagine setting up the VR headset connected to your computer or console device in your bedroom (Most hardcore gamers have their rigs set up in their rooms). The sensors and tracking camera are active and you’ve got your headset on. You grip your VR controller nervously as the game begins.
You see the actual game map as your surroundings; your room has disappeared replaced by the arid desert town of de_dust 2. You start to run in-game via your controller only to be startled by a flanking opponent, causing you to flail around as you desperately try to turn fast enough and aim your gun at him.
Funny thing is since you’re wearing the headset, you hardly can see the effects of what you’re doing in the game in the real, physical world... that is until you heard a tremendous crash and the tell-tale wink of the screen as it turns into a pitch black screen – apparently, you’ve just wrapped the wire connecting the HMD to your PC around yourself and disconnected the device from the game.
This is why you’ll need a VR body harness and treadmill device to get the ultimate VR experience. The current solution to prevent aforementioned accidents from happening simply because you can’t see the room you’re in while playing. There are a handful of these available and being made available in the market right now and today, we’ll be taking a look at KAT Walk VR.
KAT Walk is an omni-directional treadmill input device which was under kick-start development by KAT VR, a Chinese VR company founded in 2013. With over a million dollars in crowd-raised funding (obviously through Kickstarter), the KAT Walk VR ODT (omni-directional treadmill device) is expected to start shipping this year.
The generic VR treadmill device usually looks like a non-movable, over-sized baby stroller with a circular ring or protective structure of sorts that surrounds or encases the player. This is quite logical in design as it would definitely prevent you from throwing yourself all over the room. Although the field of physical movement is limited by the harness and the ring, the device will be able to allow a whole new range of movements for the player in the virtual world.
What makes KAT Walk VR different from the others is the innovativeness of its design. KAT uses a pouch-like harness which protects the player and allows as much freedom of movement. Strapped to the harness, the player can run, jump, kick, sit or even fall as the harness would pull the player to the level of sitting position before hitting the ground or the base of the ODT.
The harness can support people of various shapes and sizes (humans or humanoid at least) with a max weight of about 308 lbs. The whole device makes use of embedded sensors to track the player movements and translate into in-game actions.
The circular base of the KAT is made of cambered composite high-friction material and the player has to use specially made shoes (with sensors) that interacts with the base which then transfers gravitational energy to kinetic energy. This will simulate the feeling of walking on real ground instead of slide-walking. Likewise, the device sensors have been designed to track the movement of the player’s upper body before they even start to use their feet.
The player can make around 20-30 turns as extension cables have been provided for the interconnected interface-player devices again to insure as much optimal freedom of live action movement. The KAT VR was after all primarily designed for FPS gaming though as much applicable to other action oriented games as well.
As for compatibility to games, the KAT Walk VR is designed as a VR alternative to today’s conventional video game controllers, specifically the keyboard and mouse. The fluidity afforded by this incredible machine will definitely be perfect for high-intensity shooter games like CounterStrike.
A developer’s kit (SDK) is planned to be release to encourage game developers to develop specific KAT Walk games that will not just run on it but take full advantage of the hardware’s special features and capabilities.
With a planned market price of around $499.00, the KAT Walk VR with its optimal player movement design would be quite a bargain, considering that Virtuix Omni is priced at a whopping $699 and that the cost of buying a computer rig powerful enough to run a HMD along with the cost of actually buying the HMD is much, much higher.