I funded them on Kickstarter back in 2013 and was scheduled to receive it by Q1 of the next year. After 4 years of redesigns, roadblocks, design tweaks, financial woes, and focus in shifts by the company I took my first steps on the Omni on May 4, 2017.
Assembly was surprisingly simple, requiring nothing more than an Alan Wrench and about thirty minutes of my times. It snapped and screwed together easily with no issues.
Like a small child first encountering ice, my first step was literally a slip because that is exactly how the Omni is designed to work. I put on the specially designed shoes (more on those later) strapped on the harness and started moving around experimentally. At first it felt very unnatural, my feet slipping and sliding across the surface much too smoothly. After taking a few steps, holding on to the harness for dear life, I hesitantly let go and started trying to move normally… I immediately fell forward. That’s where the harness came in. It straps around my stomach and clips to my legs keeping me in place while I regained my footing. This happened several times until I started to get the hang of walking. Once I started walking, I took off into a run. It was glorious. Running feels much more natural than walking as your feet start sliding into a natural rhythm. I couldn’t wait to start gaming on it.
After a few minutes of getting used to the way I moved, I started my first game. I started up my HTC Vive and chose one of the three free games that came with the Omni, TRAVR Shadow Ops.
I started the game and took my first step in VR. It felt incredible! All the waiting felt worth it at that moment. I took another step, then another, my feet sliding naturally on the Omni after mere minutes of acclimation.
The game opens in the dead of night standing in front of a warehouse lit by street lamps, ominous music plays in the background as take a look around. You are standing next to a soldier straight out of any black ops movie or video game, and he tells you to follow him in to the warehouse. After taking a few steps in the game, I ran straight into a wall. I took a step to the right and went through the doorway. I stepped into an eerie building and the music died, the silence ringing in my ears. As we moved forward and to the left, I walked into a few more walls and some barriers. I came across some blood, gore, and pieces of dead bodies strewn all through the halls. Something flashes across the screen and the lights start to flicker. The other soldier screams and starts running away and I follow, spinning all the way around and running after him. Every step takes you further from danger but plunges you deeper into the facility, adding a sense of immersion to the experience as a whole. The lights go out completely and the other soldier screams again. Your night vision goggles kick on and you find yourself surrounded by zombies slowly lumbering toward you. At this point, the game forces you to stand there and mow down a few hordes of undead which almost defeats the purpose of having the Omni. After only a few minutes though, the zombies are all dead and you are left alone in the dark surrounded by corpses and the sounds of crying. The crying sounds are coming from a door I found immediately behind me. I took a few more steps, ran into the doorway, and found myself staring at a woman crying in a glass prison. She cries and asks you to help her get out. I expected the game to turn into an escort mission at that point, but I was very mistaken. After a few seconds of trying to figure out how to get her out she becomes irate and the glass holding her in shatters. The lights go out again. When the night vision kicks back in, she’s gone.
“She’s right behind me isn’t she?” I asked myself. I spun on the Omni and BAM there she was. I shoot her a few times in the chest as she rushes me. The screen goes black and takes you back to the home screen.
I took off my HTC Vive and grinned like an idiot. The feeling of physically running from something chasing me in a virtual world is indescribably exhilarating and terrifying.
The Omni worked like a dream and I am so glad I bought it but nothing is perfect in this world and the Omni is no exception.
My biggest issue actually arose when I started playing the next game. It was an arcade where you run through an obstacle course shooting at moving targets that occasionally shoot back while you dodge lasers and race a clock to beat your own score and the other Omni users on the board. The game requires a lot of running around corners and spinning to shoot at targets that appear on either side of you, as you do this the cord on the Vive continuously wraps around you, gets caught in the harness, and tugs on the back of your head. I had to stop playing and move the headset up multiple times to untangle the cord or take it out of the harness. The next day I bought a spinning hook and managed to rig it to my ceiling so that it spun as I did but it’s not a perfect solution. Although, this could be more of a complaint about the fact that the HTC Vive Wireless option isn’t fully developed yet.
My next big issue with Omni is the shoes. They fit fine and they are reasonably comfortable but they are essentially a highly specialized pair of running shoes that conform to conventional sizes. So, if anyone I know wants to try it but has bigger feet than me, which is literally everyone I know, I have to go to the Virtuix website and spend another hundred dollars, plus taxes and shipping, to get another larger pair for someone else to get to try my new toy.
My last complaint is of the harness. After ten minutes or so, the harness starts to dig into my hips uncomfortably and the clips ride a little too far up on my crotch for my taste. Once I adjust the harness a little the pain lessons but it never goes completely away. Unless I can find a solution, I can’t spend long periods of time playing on it like I had envisioned.
Additionally, the Omni secures itself as something only those with lots of disposable income can afford because it only works on a VR-ready PC or Laptop, which usually cost at least a grand to build or buy. In all fairness, it comes equipped with Bluetooth so that you could technically play on one of the phone-based VR headsets but to truly get the experience I would really recommend the HTC Vive or The Oculus Rift.
Despite its faults, the experience of running in a video game is enough by itself to earn my recommendation. Which leads me to all the things I love about this magnificent piece of hardware. The sleek black and green design of the Omni makes it look like a device straight out of the future. Its harness, combined with the ring, keeps you firmly in place as you run in the virtual world. You can adjust the height of the Omni easily by unlocking the levers on the stands with your foot, allowing it to adjust for children and very tall gamers alike. It looks and feels like something that would feel right at home in any arcade but is small enough to fit into any room that’s large enough for room-scale VR games, only 55’ by 55’ at its base.
Running in the virtual world is something I have been looking forward to since I was a small child, solidified by promises of a bright future where video games will be played exclusively in a virtual space. The truth is not nearly as glamourous but it is just as magnificent. As I continue experimenting, playing more games, having further experiences, and living the dream, I will update the readers here on Minishout.com.
Until next time, Happy Gaming!