Ready to Drop $9,000 on Immersive VR?

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Ready to Drop $9,000 on Immersive VR?

If you just coughed up your turkey dinner from all the way last week at that headline, man, you were not alone. That price tag gave me sticker shock so hard I think it might have had a taser. So what do you get for a virtual reality (VR) rig that's priced about the same as some entire used cars? A slice of innovation so impressive that it might well change the way we game in VR.

Known as the Kat Walk from KatVR, it's a complete setup that wraps around a player's waist, and uses special shoes backed up by a plastic pad underneath said shoes that basically turn your feet into a walking controller, allowing your movements to translate perfectly within a game. Want to run through the Outlast house or actually walk from Riften to Markarth in Skyrim? All possible with the Kat Walk. It's used with a Vive headset and a special controller for actions not controlled by the feet.

Reports suggest that $9,000 Kat Walk system is already catching on in Chinese video arcades, where they're selling like hotcakes thanks to the fact that these still-missed anachronisms are putting a lot of investment--and when's the last time you heard the phrase "large numbers of arcades are investing heavily" in a sentence without bursting into laughter?--into VR operations.

I don't know what's more unusual here: the high-priced VR controller or the fact that apparently there's some kind of renaissance for arcades going on in China right now. Because frankly, the last place I ever expected to hear about video arcades is in a place known for its staggering levels of Internet censorship. It's actually a safe bet that no one in China is reading this right now, based on what I've heard about the Great Firewall so far. Yet at the same time, this is exciting news. We're talking about a VR controller that's sufficiently immersive to be powered by actual physical movement. Of course, that only goes so far; we've had such controllers come out before like the Virtuix Omni gaming treadmill, and Virtual Reality Times actually went so far back in 2015 as to offer a list of similar controllers currently in development. There were several such entries.

It's not a bad idea to improve VR control schemes; we're getting to a point where such operations will be necessary down the line and being ready for such a position is important. The $9,000 controller may not get a lot of life outside of big operations, but it's certainly not out of line to look for a scaled-down consumer version to come. We may well be replacing our hand-based pads with larger treadmill-based rigs, so clean up your living rooms, folks, we may be needing some more room therein soon.

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