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Can VR Robotic Boots Solve Locomotion Problem?

Oct, 2020 - By WMR

Can VR Robotic Boots Solve Locomotion Problem?

Virtual reality is one of the most exciting technology available that offers a simulated experience, which is similar to or completely different from the real-world. It has found applications in a wide variety of fields particularly gaming, entertainment, military, healthcare, and many more. A great thing about virtual reality is that it is getting better every day with improvements that make it feel more real. Now, a U.S-based VR startup has come up with a novel VR product Ekto One. It is simply a pair of robotic boots, which the company claims, helps to keep you at one spot while walking forward. The motion was a massive challenge for VR gadget designers where they needed to find a solution that will not result in going place to another. Ekto One is inherently different from teleport systems used in Half-Life and Alyx where players need to instantly jump from one spot to another. 

Ekto One is made of lightweight carbon fiber and similar to skates with automatically engaging brakes. To put that in layman’s terms, they are simply compact treadmills in form of boots. Once it is strapped on, a set of wheels pull the user’s leg back while walking forward. It actually matches the motion in sync with the headset. These pair of robotic shoes are extremely light and uses HTC’s Vive Tracker pucks to track the movement in VR. So how does it work? At the bottom of each boot, there are two rotating plates. So when the user walks forward, the boots glide backward, while keeping the user in the same spot. This is something similar to moonwalking while wearing roller skates. Moreover, these boots are also provided with a set of brakes that can be applied by standing still. It stops the user from falling or tripping over.

One of the major concerns, however, remains the safety of these boots or rather how safe are these boots for users. Although Ekto CEO Brad Factor has assured that the system has been through rigorous testing to ensure safety, there still mains a question. Only the future iterations might give us the optimum result. Safety remains one of the top concerns about VR kit and therefore if there are issues they need to be mitigated. That all being said, Ekto One is a genuinely intriguing design and could be a breakthrough design in VR locomotion with a much more immersive experience than what we have today. However, Ekto One is specifically designed only for enterprise markets and seems to be too bulky and complex for consumer use. The current model is affordable for enterprise solutions and Ekto is focused on introducing its consumer version in the near future.

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