About this project
The Virtualizer is an award-winning locomotion device for Virtual Reality that allows the user to move freely in virtual environments. Step inside the game and become one with your character.
"The closest you can get to actually being in Skyrim" -www.kotaku.com
"Step Inside the “Virtualizer” – the Next Level of Immersive Gaming" - http://www.techandinnovationdaily.com/
"The Virtualizer takes gaming to the next level" - uk.reuters.com
"The Virtualizer is revolutionary. It is going to fundamentally change the gaming experience!" - Toni Sonn, CEO Caseking.de
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Who in the gaming community has never dreamt of getting rid of devices like joypads, mice and keyboards and switching to something more natural: Your own body. Why control your in-game avatar with buttons, when instead you could be the one walking through these beautifully crafted worlds. Up until recently the answer would have been quite simple: It’s either technically impossible or at least not affordable for the consumer market. Well, not anymore, thanks to the Virtualizer, the most immersive gaming experience to this date.
The Virtualizer - No Restrictions, Full Immersion
Over the course of two years, we here at Cyberith have developed the Virtualizer, an easy to use virtual reality device that allows the user to walk through any kind of virtual environments in real-time. It does so by combining a revolutionary low-friction principle and high precision sensors with a special mechanical construction, resulting in a new form of omni-directional treadmill. To increase immersion even further, the Virtualizer is now equipped with vibration packs! (check the section below to get further information).
See the Virtualizer in action in different games like Crysis 3, Counter Strike Global Offensive and others:
We have experimented tirelessly with different setups and materials, made detailed motion analyses and built three different prototypes in order to come up with a Virtual Reality solution that would satisfy our own needs as gamers and Virtual Reality enthusiasts. From the beginning our main focus has always been on immersion, a key concept in Virtual Reality, which means creating the perception for the user of being physically present in a non-physical world. We didn't want for the Virtualizer to just be another way of handling your games, like a new form of Gamepad or something comparable. The Virtualizer is first and foremost a new form of experience, allowing you for the first time ever to really become part of the game, instead of just playing it! With head-mounted Displays like the Oculus Rift and a pair of surround sound headphones you are able to visually and auditory immerse into games, but as Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe put it when asked about the immersion level of the Rift: “We’ll need some seat belts for people. You want to stand up, you want to walk around.” Well, forget the seat belts and hop into the Virtualizer!
Meet the Virtualizer
The Virtualizer has a set of unique features that make him the optimal Virtual Reality locomotion device. Here are the reasons why it looks exactly the way it does!
A flat base-plate
When we first came up with the idea of the Virtualizer we had the choice to make to either go for a bowl-shaped or a flat base-plate. We quickly dismissed the bowl-shaped platform after we ran our first motion analyses for a simple reason: It inherently breaks immersion. When you run or walk on an even ground in-game your brain expects that your feet touch the ground exactly the moment your feet would do in reality. But with a bowl your feet touch the slope of the bowl earlier than they should. Therefore every step becomes a reminder for you that you are not really inside Virtual Reality, you are in fact just using a controller.
So after deciding to use a flat base-plate we had to find a material that features the perfect friction coefficient for our base-plate, so that walking and running would feel as natural as possible. If the coefficient is too low the user starts to slide as if he were on ice, whereas if the coefficient is too high walking and running become exhausting very quickly. Over the course of 3 prototypes we've tested different materials and added a Materials Scientist to our team to find the one material that would fit our needs. Check out our video of running and walking in the Virtualizer compared to running in a treadmill, which showcases how close we've got to the natural motion sequences.
Movable ring construction
A core feature of the Virtualizer is its movable ring construction. You are fixed into a comfortable harness that allows for a great freedom of movement: With it you are able to rotate, jump, kneel and even sit down effortlessly. Furthermore, the ring will not weigh you down, since its weight will be compensated through a special balance-system. Combined with the custom made linear guides in each of the three pillars we achieve smooth and quiet vertical movements.
All those moves are picked up analogically with an accuracy lower than 1 cm (0.4 inches) as you perform them, so once a game fully supports the Virtualizer (see our SDK section for more information), you will be able to not only 'trigger' a crouching stance with the Virtualizer, but actually crouch in-game exactly as high or low as you do in real-life. The same applies for jumping of course. Achieving this is vital for a truly immersive experience because obviously you will break immersion if the positioning of your body in-game and in real-life are different. To not break immersion while driving a vehicle in-game we implemented a sitting function, because who wants to drive a tank or fly an airplane while standing upright? Check out our action-packed Battlefield video to see all the possible movements (and of course our sitting function) in action:
The Virtualizer HT – Feel the game!
Controlling games with your own body obviously raises the level of immersion significantly, but we thought that the real icing on the cake would be the integration of haptic feedback. That’s why we implemented vibration units in the base-plate, so once a grenade explodes right next to you, you get appropriate feedback from the Virtualizer to let you know that now would probably be a good time to get moving!
The integration of haptic technology into an omni-directional treadmill is definitely a first and with the Virtualizer HT you have the chance to acquire a technological novelty which sets new standards in its area.
The Virtualizer HT brings the missing ingredient to VR: Feeling the game. Don’t worry, the HT has nothing to do with a giant rumble pack. Our acousto-haptic technology is a vastly different kind of animal: It uses audio and special transducers, creating precise, directed haptic output to deliver you an unmatched VR experience. The technology is implemented in the base plate, allowing you to feel your virtual environment like never before: Feel grenades exploding next to you, jump off a cliff and level the impact, the possibilities are endless. And here’s the best part: It works with every game. Simply plug in the USB and let our software do the rest. No matter if the game has native support for haptic feedback, our software is able to pick up audio signals produced by the game engine and transform them into haptic feedback. Of course, if native haptic technology support is available the Virtualizer HT will use it. And once our SDK is released, developers will get their own interface for our haptic technology, allow them, to implement it in their games exactly the way they want to. Check out our SDK section for more information.
The integrated sensors assure low-latency motion detection. Optical sensors inside the base-plate pick up every move of your feet, whereas sensors inside the pillars guarantee an immediate detection of your vertical position. Combined with sensors in the ring-construction that determine your angle you're good to go!
No shoes needed
The low-friction base plate allows you to play in your socks. No need to buy extra shoes or equipment. Plus, playing in socks makes using the Virtualizer completely silent, so don't worry about your neighbors while playing your favorite games!
The Virtualizer is an USB-Plug & Play device with no need for additional power supply (applies only to the standard Virtualizer - added haptic feedback will require regular power supply). With our easy-to-use software interface you are able to choose between emulating either a controller or a keyboard, making the Virtualizer compatible with any software that allows for controller and/or keyboard input. Furthermore, our software allows you to track your distance covered and analyze your calorie consumption and average speed. With the soon-to-come SDK, developers will be able to integrate optimal Virtualizer support in their games with no effort.
Gaming is just the beginning
When we started with the development of the Virtualizer we obviously had gaming in mind. But its possible fields of applications are almost limitless. You could use it for educational purposes, training situations, psychological therapy or architecture to just name a few. Why not explore historic sites, walk through a DNA strand or go for a walk on the moon with the Virtualizer? Or why not take a walk through your future home before it’s even built or design 3D models while you’re standing inside of them? We've already been approached by companies like SIGNA (Austria's biggest real estate company) and joined them at the MIPIM 2014, one of the world's most glamorous real estate exhibitions, providing real estate companies the possibility to present their projects to visitors from all over the world.
"To the science-mobile!" - Get the Virtualizer without sensors
Another version of the Virtualizer you will find in our pledges is the 'dummy' Virtualizer. This one comes without any integrated sensors and is therefore directed towards a very specific group of customers: If you plan to use the Virtualizer with different tracking systems (for example the PrioVR suit or the Kinect) this should be your choice. You'll still be able to walk/run etc. without reaching the limitations of your own four walls but again, those moves will not be tracked by the Virtualizer. Watch our Video of the Virtualizer combined with the PrioVR suit!
The Arm - A solution for wired Head-Mounted Displays
Until wireless head-mounted displays are advanced enough in terms of latency or weight to be suitable for Virtual Reality, you're going to have to have one cable! To avoid the cable getting in the way of your awesome 360° spins, wrapping you up like a python, we came up with a simple and effective solution: "The Arm". The Arm is attached to the side of the Virtualizer and stretches out above your head. This means you can channel the cable for your HMD or headphones straight up and down the side of the Virtualizer. The result? Free and unconstrained 360° moves!
Full Virtual Reality needs Virtual Reality games - The Virtualizer SDK
Don't worry: all your favorite games will be playable with the Virtualizer. If they allow for keyboard or controller input, our easy-to-use software enables you to emulate one of the two. But, the potential of the Virtualizer goes way beyond that: For example recent games neither allow for analog crouching, nor are you able to separate viewing from movement. In a way, hardware has surpassed software when it comes to immersion and it's time for software to catch up. That's where our Software Development Kit comes into play: With it developers will be able to easily integrate full Virtualizer functionality in their games for full immersion. Analog crouching, jumping and the possibility to have independent viewing direction and walking direction will change the way games are played and give rise to real Virtual Reality games. That's why we are working really hard to deliver our SDK at the end of 2014 to make sure there are tons of Virtual Reality games out there, once you receive your Virtualizer. Regarding the Virtualizer HT we currently have three different ways of feeding the vibration units with data: The easiest case is if the game supports haptic technology out of the box (e.g. for controllers). Our driver software will automatically pick up the signals sent by the game and translate those into haptic feedback. In case there's no native support for haptic feedback, our driver will analyse the audio output of the game to generate enough data to feed the vibration unit. The best results will be achieved once our SDK is released: It will feature an HT interface, allowing developers to freely determine if and when haptic feedback should be produced to offer players an unmatched level of immersion experience!
Our awesome VR Developers contacts
Our awesome partners
Virtual Reality is on the rise - become a pioneer today
The last two years really were breakthrough years for the whole Virtual Reality sector. Not only did devices like the Oculus Rift cause excitement all over the world, they also attracted big players of the industry. Facebook teamed up with Oculus, Sony unveiled their first HMD prototype and the list goes on and on. There's no way around it: Virtual Reality will be the next technological revolution in a matter of no time. We here at Cyberith want to speed up that process but we need your help to do so! The Virtualizer is one big step in bringing Virtual Reality into people's homes but it has to be noted that it will require more of these steps to truly establish consumer friendly Virtual Reality. So due to Virtual Reality itself being a completely new sector, please note that the version of the Virtualizer offered here on Kickstarter is the first of an ongoing project that will turn out successful thanks to your pioneer attitude!
Please note that the Virtualizers offered at Kickstarter will come in an exclusive Kickstarter design, only available through our campaign. Furthermore the price of the proposals is especially aligned for Kickstarter. It realistically allows to start the production, but notice that the price will be significantly higher when it comes to market.
Risks and challenges
Since we are a young team and hardware production and shipping is not always smooth sailing, there of course are some obstacles to overcome. We are well aware that production, shipping and logistics are the major problem areas for Start-Ups and Kickstarter projects. That's why we decided to outsource them and teamed up with experts for the respective areas.
We have already found local partners who have decades of experience in producing elaborate hardware and who will now produce, assemble and transport the Virtualizer. Some materials and parts from external sources will be utilized too, but every single step of production and assembly will be covered in one plant. If there still should be any unforeseen circumstances we can visit the manufacturers easily and sort the problems out quickly. Not only are our partners always within reach, but they will also deliver the highest level of "Made in Europe"-quality. Logistics and shipping will also be taken over by a professional company with years of experience, so the Virtualizer is guaranteed to arrive safely at your door!
It is very important for us to keep our promises that's why we limited the number of the offered Virtualizers to a number that is manufacturable in time.
Another point that also should be addressed is stress testing. Albeit Prototype 2 has been tested thoroughly by over 2000 people at various conventions over the last year, we have not stress tested Prototype 3 this extensively yet. That being said, Prototype 3 represents an improvement in every aspect and we expect it to be at least as durable as Prototype 2. Since our analyses, simulations and tests deliver affirmative results, we are confident in being able to deliver the quality we promise to.
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