I Am Bread is an interesting release from Bossa Studios. It is currently in Early Access, and shares the same style of controls as Surgeon Simulator. However, there is a lot more to it than just toasting a slice of bread.
Last year, Virtuix appeared on Kickstarter with a piece of hardware that made many gamers leap for joy at the knowledge that in the future they could be walking around the battlefields of Chernarus. The Omni has since been covered by many media outlets, appeared at countless events and is about to enter mass production.
For those of you who don’t know much about the Virtuix Omni, it is an omni-directional treadmill being designed primarily as a VR platform, although Colton Jacobs, Product Manager of Virtuix, has said that in the future it could replace current home treadmills.
It first appeared on Kickstarter in June, 2013 with an initial funding goal of $150,000 USD that was surpassed within the FIRST 24 HOURS! This shows the support for VR technology, which is why there is a dying hope that hardware, such as the Omni, have successful commercial launches to ensure the future for this growing market.
Soon after the launch, Virtuix announced a stretch goal. If they reached $1.1 million USD, they would develop a game specifically for the Omni. TRAVR (pronounced Trevor) would be used to demonstrate the capabilities of the hardware while providing a short, but entertaining experience, that players could enjoy. Surely enough, at the end of the 49 day campaign, they had achieved enough to bring the game to reality, virtual reality.
A couple of weeks ago, I got the opportunity to interview Colton Jacobs and talk to him about the Omni, how Kickstarter funding brought it closer and what the future holds for Virtuix and VR technology.
Q: If you hadn’t achieved your funding goal, would the Omni still be possible?
Colton: It would. It would take longer, especially to get funding and to get prototyping together because what Kickstarter really allowed for, was us to go out and hire great talent, especially on the engineering side. So Kickstarter, like the name implies, is a kick in the butt to getting projects like this started.
What stage of development is the Omni currently in?
Colton: The Omni is currently about to go into mass production. We are getting our final prototypes together that have all the functionality and capabilities that we are looking for from the hardware side. We can then send it to our manufacturing partner, who can start producing it in mass quantities. That can still take some time, especially with tooling.
Beyond that, we are starting to get more onto the software side. We are starting to look more into offering an SDK and API which can be used by developers to develop specific apps and games for the Omni, because that is when it is going to get really exciting.
Right now we are using games that everyone can play on their PC or their console. We want games that are specifically designed for the VR experience, that take full advantage of the Omni’s capabilities.
According to your Kickstarter, you planned to begin shipping by January. What is the cause of the delay?
Colton: Since nothing like this has ever been created before, it took a little bit longer than anticipated to find a proper manufacturing partner that can manufacture everything in the same location. That is really going to help with our quality control and pricing as well.
The Kickstarter community is very accepting of these types of delays because they know that we are using the time effectively to make sure that it’s going to be a top-quality product.
Obviously the Omni will be sending information across to the game. Will this affect the speed of it?
Colton: With our final prototype, we’re going to be measuring latency. From our first initial test though, we are able to say that the Omni has the same latency as a keyboard.
Once you have completed and released the Virtuix Omni? Will you be moving onto a new project, or have you got plans to take it further?
Colton: The Omni will be a continuing product line, where we will continue to improve upon it as the years go on. We’re taking our time now to add any kind of improvements that we can possibly think of, so the Omni that comes out now will have all the bells and whistles that we can think of, at least those that add to the experience.
Beyond the Omni, there is possibility for other product lines that could come out through Virtuix. They’re still in very early stages, in terms of development, since we’re solely focused on delivering the Omni.
…the Omni that comes out now will have all the bells and whistles that we can think of, at least those that add to the experience. Colton Jacobs
So far technology has been focused on a user’s input affecting something else, such as a game. Do you think we will see technology where the user is affected in some way, and is this something that Virtuix may be involved in?
Colton: I think you’re talking about haptic feedback, where the user itself is going to feel the environment around them. There is some very limited applications for that, for example rumble packs in console controllers and having a close subwoofer where you feel the shaking of an explosion.
Haptic feedback is the most difficult hardware aspect of virtual reality because your sense of touch is very difficult to mimic. It is quite a way off to where it is commercially accepted, where developers are developing games for it, but it definitely is in the future because the whole idea of visual entertainment is to put you into the virtual world.
Don’t forget that the Omni isn’t solely a gaming machine but, as Colton Jacobs explained to me in another interview, it is a VR platform with limitless uses. That interview will be appearing on the internet in the coming week and I can promise you that you will be surprised at one of the uses.