Ekto’s robotic boots may solve VR locomotion problems
The Pittsburgh-based company has revealed its first product: the Ekto One. It’s a pair of robotic boots that the company claims are capable of keeping you in one spot while you walk forward. There’s no simulating walking on the spot or strapping yourself into a VR treadmill. Check it out working with Half-Life: Alyx in the above video.
The shoes use a carbon-fiber design that Ekto says is lightweight and use HTC’s Vive Tracker pucks to track movement in VR. On the bottom of the device are two rotating plates that can twist to the direction the user is walking in. Once they put their foot on the ground, a set of wheels pull your leg back while you walk forward, supposedly giving the sensation of walking, but keeping you in one spot. It uses brakes for when you’re standing still to make sure you don’t slip over as if on a pair of skates.
I haven’t tried the Ekto One, but as with any new VR technology on the scene, safety is one of our top concerns about the kit. In a prebriefing earlier this month, Ekto CEO Brad Factor assured the system has been through rigorous testing to ensure safety, though we’d have to test that for ourselves. It also doesn’t support running just yet, which is unsurprising given potential risks, though future iterations might support this.
It’s certainly an intriguing design and could be a potential avenue to make VR locomotion much more immersive than it is right now. But Ekto One is designed only for enterprise markets in its current form and definitely looks too big, complex, and expensive for consumer use right now. Factor notes the current model is “affordable” for enterprise solutions but does say Ekto VR is interested in consumer applications in future applications, hoping to achieve that in two to four years.