[Herald Interview] Virtuix aims to change landscape of virtual reality
Published : Nov 19, 2014 - 21:05
Updated : Nov 19, 2014 - 21:05
Despite being hailed as a game changer in the world of tech, head-mounted virtual reality displays are still short of delivering a fully immersive experience for users because the technology is still too static and doesn’t require active physical movement.

The Omni VR treadmill is out to change this.

Virtuix, the U.S. startup that created the Omni, says it is certain to provide a wholly different experience ― one in which virtual reality can be a true reality.

“We want to take virtual reality beyond sitting down, beyond the chair and get people up in virtual reality,” Jan Goetgelux, chief executive of Virtuix, told The Korea Herald Tuesday. 
The Omni virtual reality treadmill, developed by U.S. startup Virtuix. (Virtuix)

He was in Seoul for DICON 2014, an international content conference held this week.

The Omni is compatible with VR headsets, including Samsung’s Gear VR and Oculus VR’s Rift.

Users wearing the headsets can walk and run in all directions and jump on the Omni’s dish-like platform, which works as a controller like a computer mouse. Characters, or avatars, in games mimic the users’ movements.

The players are advised to wear a waist harness attached to a support ring in order to avoid falling off the platform by mistake.

Goetgelux, a mechanical engineer who also describes himself as a sports enthusiast, came up with the idea three years ago of building the omnidirectional treadmill after recognizing one big problem among VR products ― they don’t allow users to walk or run.

He began a Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and raised $1.1 million, and later attracted more investment. The Houston-based company also found itself in the spotlight after it was said to be working with Samsung Electronics to create an ecosystem for the fledgling virtual reality business.

The Virtuix CEO said he had visited Samsung’s lab in Dallas ― a four-hour drive from Virtuix’s headquarters ― several times to discuss collaborative efforts.

The sky’s the limit for VR technology, which will become the “next big thing,” according to the CEO.
Jan Goetgelux, chief executive of Virtuix, talks about the virtual reality treadmill the Omni in an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul on Tuesday. (KOCCA)

“(Utilizing the Omni for) games is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Goetgelux, adding, “You can think of any application such as military training, health care, physical therapy, fitness and architecture.”

At the International CES, the world’s largest trade show, to be held in Las Vegas in January 2015, Virtuix will showcase the final version of the Omni.

Unlike the rather chunky and unsophisticated wooden prototypes, the final product will be made of plastic, steel and anodized aluminum. It will also have a sleek new design, according to the CEO.

“It will be a beautiful product,” he promised.

Samsung and Virtuix are also expected to work together in displaying their respective products, the Gear VR and the virtual reality treadmill.

The U.S. firm will hold demonstrations with its own video games including the first person shooting game Speed Shooter.

He said he hoped to build business tie-ups with other South Korean companies as well.

The company has received 4,000 preorders so far ― almost half of which have come from the U.S. ― and will start shipping the product from the first quarter of next year.

By Kim Young-won (