The next step in virtual immersion

Last week, Shaping Tomorrow published my latest trend alert about immersive technologies, Expanding Immerive Experiences. In it, I detail a few of the devices on the very near term horizon that will provide a mainstream market with immersion in the digital and virtual world, much more than any currently available devices. All the products I researched for my trend alert have the potential to be little more than fad gadgets, but I focused on those devices I thought had the most potential to at least go mainstream if not maintain acceptance.

One device I wanted to mention is the Omni, an omni-directional treadmill developed by Virtuix, but I was uncertain about its mainstream potential because it relies so heavily on the adoption of the Oculus Rift or another head mounted display (HMD). For the Oculus Rift or any other virtual reality HMD to be truly immersive, the user needs the ability to move around freely instead of using a keyboard or controller. Kinect and other gesture recognition devices could provide this ability to some extent but not with the same degree of intuitive physical freedom the Omni offers. Watch the video to see what I mean: Omni’s Kickstarter video. However, for the full range of motion users will still need gesture recognition hardware for arm motions, kicking, and jumping.

The Omni with Kinect and the Oculus Rift could bring users very close to the level of immersion proposed by Star Trek’s holodeck. I’m still not entirely certain about its mainstream appeal, but the Omni’s kickstarter campaign launched with a bang on June 4 and has already reached more than five times its goal with 1,700 backers. With more momentum, the Omni has the potential to develop a synergy for adoption of other immersive techs and push the gaming world toward greater virtual immersion especially with its likely use in exercise games. If gamers can be convinced, other industries will see its potential as well and the long discussed promise of virtual reality may finally reach the mainstream.

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