These New VR ‘Treadmill Shoes’ Let You Jog Around the World Without Leaving Your Room

A startup is trying to change the way we interact with virtual reality.

Freeaim is currently hard at work on a pair of shoes that will allow you to walk through a virtual environment without running into a wall, according to New Atlas. The company’s new device features an array of small wheels that allow you to take steps while staying in place.

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Thanks to the accessibility of quality headsets, VR has taken a huge leap forward over the past decade. But the increasingly immersive experiences aren’t without their limitations, one of which is the simulation of movement. The devices may be able to faithfully replicate the movement of your head and arms in a VR environment, but your legs are a completely different story. Right now, navigating through such a space usually means that you have to walk or jog in place back in the real world.

Up until now, the only real option for someone looking for the most immersive VR experience possible meant using an omnidirectional treadmill, which is basically the adult version of a baby bouncer. Users strap themselves into the hulking devices and then walk around a moving surface. These treadmills work, but they’re inconvenient and expensive.

Freeaim’s VR shoes, which the company claims are compatible with all SteamVR headsets, are a much smaller and more sensible alternative. Each shoe is basically like a high-tech roller skate equipped with two modules consisting of four motorized wheels. The wheels are omnidirectional and move in the opposite direction of the one you are traveling in. This allows you to stay in place—or at least within a demarcated two-by-two-meter zone—regardless of what direction you are walking in the VR game. Finally, you can walk freely in a game or other VR experience without worrying about the damage you’ll do in the real world.

You can’t order Freeaim’s shoes just yet. The company has just made the device available to developers for the rather high cost of $4,999. Fortunately, a more affordable consumer version is said to be on the way. The company hopes to release a $1,000 pair for VR gamers sometime next year.

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