This year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018 seemed to be mostly about virtual reality (VR) software rather than hardware. There were little pockets on some of the smaller booths, one of which was Cybershoes, a VR startup showcasing its new product ahead of a planned Kickstarter launch later this year. Naturally, VRFocus couldn’t pass up the chance to try this new idea of moving around in VR (actually walking) whilst still being sat down.
So essentially Cybershoes are two devices that attach to the soles of each shoe. Much like those old school roller skates when you were a kid, they comprise of one big strap that goes over the top of your foot to keep the device in place and then you can set off.
Unlike omnidirectional treadmills that require you to stand on a smooth surface and try to walk without falling over – which can take a while to acclimatise to – the Cybershoes were far easier to adjust to and use, mainly because you’re sat down rather than standing. This also has the added benefit of being able to be used by a far wider array of people no matter what their physical ability is like.
For the E3 demonstration the Cybershoes had been tallied up with DOOM (2016) so attendees could run around at blast demons to their hearts content. To begin with all seemed fairly good being able to physically walk about and turn on the chair when needed. The Cybershoes have a smooth, slippery, sole so there’s no friction to deal with.
However a videogame like DOOM quickly highlighted some issues with Cybershoes due to the nature of the format. If you’ve not played DOOM then to put it simply it’s a frantic first-person shooter (FPS) what requires a lot of movement to stay alive. Cybershoes just couldn’t replicate this movement quick enough – or more accurately the old legs couldn’t – meaning that death was soon inevitable.
Demoing this kind of technology at an event does help to highlight how things need to be perfectly adjusted to the user for an ideal play session. For example the chair was too short meaning a 6ft bloke like myself had to bring their knees up to maintain the walking motion – no sliding your feet back and forth on the floor – making for a far more leg tiring experience than if the seat was high enough to just casually walk.
Ideally you’d want to use Cybershoes on a far more open-world adventure where you could take your time for the most part – wandering around the wasteland of Fallout 4 VR would be kind of cool – and where jumping wasn’t needed.
The E3 Cybershoes were still prototypes at the end of the day and did exactly what they needed to, help people walk in VR without actually moving anywhere. One aspect of the design that also shone out was the robustness. Even with demo after demo for three days the Cybershoes stand was still going strong so they can definitely take some punishment. As an alternative to direct locomotion the Cybershoes certainly offer an interesting option, in this niche VR market however it remains to be seen how much demand there will be.