Kat Loco wearable sensors give VR movement a leg up
Virtual reality systems have aced movement of the hands and head, but it's still tricky to track the feet. Now games hardware company Kat is crowdfunding the Kat Loco, a set of three sensors that attach to a player's feet and hip to translate movements in the real world into walking, running or strafing in the game.
You might remember Kat as the company behind the Kat Walk, an omni-directional treadmill released a few years back. As immersive as it looked, the Kat Walk was too bulky for most living rooms and a tad on the expensive side.
But the Kat Loco, on the other hand, looks like a much more streamlined solution. It's made up of three small sensors, with one hooking onto a player's belt while the other two strap around each ankle. Together with a VR headset and controllers in each hand, the system can track pretty much the whole body.
Rather than the tired old teleportation method of traversing VR worlds, or using a traditional controller, the Kat Loco lets you get around by walking on the spot. Sure, you'll look a little goofy, like a cartoon burglar trying to tiptoe into a bank vault, but it's basically impossible to play VR and look dignified anyway.
Since that might get a little tiring, the Kat Loco has a Cruise Control mode too. Using that, players just stick one leg forward and the character will move that way in the game, and steer by moving your hips. And since the system decouples the head and body movements, you can look around you without changing the direction you're walking.
This same system also lets you move backwards or sideways by taking one step to the side or back.
All in all, the Kat Loco sounds like a pretty elegant way to get your feet into VR gameplay. We've seen all manner of bulky treadmills, full-body suits, haptic shoes, and even warehouse-sized play spaces. We'd be curious to see how well three small sensors could translate movement in games.
Kat says the Loco will be compatible with most VR systems, including the Vive and Oculus devices as well as the PlayStation VR. The lattermost will require an extra adapter, but it sounds like Kat plans on selling those too. The batteries are said to be good for 10 hours of continuous use.
Kat is crowdfunding the Kat Loco on Kickstarter, where it has raised over US$170,000 of its $50,000 goal, with five days remaining on the campaign. Pledges are available from $119 for a set, and if all goes to plan the company estimates shipping to begin in August 2019.
Check it out in action in the video below.