There's an obsession with "immersion" in virtual reality. Everyone wants to find the next way to make VR experiences feel more real. So far, the best ways to do it have been room tracking sensors that let you walk around a designated area or wireless hand controllers that let you grab things in the virtual world. Now, a new startup is betting big on plastic shoes that give you a sensation that you're actually walking around in the virtual world.
Image: Gizmodo / Michael Nunez
The Cerevo Taclim is pair of tactile feedback shoes and wireless hand controllers made to work with Google VR experiences that make it feel like you're actually walking on the surface shown in the virtual world. That means snow crunches beneath your feet, grains of sand rub against your toes, and water splashes as you wade around in virtual puddles — at least in theory.
The idea is totally freaking insane, and it immediately caught my attention at this year's CES. Virtual reality has been one of these hyped-up categories for years, but it's always fallen short of complete immersion. I decided I had to give the Taclim shoes and controllers a chance in order to see if its dramatically improved any VR experiences.
The creator of the shoes booted up a fighting game, and I was asked to walk into the arena where I'd fight a bunch of robots. As I entered the arena, I stepped on water, concrete, and sand. Each different element provided a different sensation on my toes, the balls of my feet, and my heels. I wouldn't call it realistic, but the sensation did at least somewhat help me suspend my disbelief that I wasn't actually in the middle of a crowded convention center in Las Vegas.
Image: Gizmodo / Michael Nunez The shoes themselves are really easy to strap on and are relatively simple builds. There are two straps that go across the top of your feet like a pair of Tevas or other athletic sandals. There are tactile feedback motors in both the front and rear of the shoes and also across one of the straps. It's enough to give you a tingly feeling in your feet as you march in place, walking around a virtual world. There are also motors in the palms of the hand controllers that come with the shoes, though I didn't find them all that helpful, and frankly, they weren't that innovative. They looked like modified versions of the Oculus Touch controllers.
Cerevo says it hopes to ship the Taclim set in the fall of 2017, and the pair of controllers and shoes will cost between $US1,000 ($1,384) and $US1,500 ($2,076). It's a steep price to pay, especially since its only compatible with Google VR at the moment, but Cerevo says it hopes to add bigger platforms — namely Oculus, Steam VR, and PlayStation VR — in the near future. We certainly hope so because without the support of those bigger platforms, these shoes will be dead on arrival. Still, it's a very fun accessory to play with and it would be even better if they worked with room tracking sensors. Then, finally, we might get some real immersion.
Image: Gizmodo / Michael Nunez