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How do the Freeaim VR Shoes work?

The VR shoes use high torque brushless motors with treadmill belts to counteract the user's actual movement and keep the person from moving outside of a typical small play space (~1.5x1.5m) in a home or office.

The VR shoes internally sense their orientation, velocity and track their own position using a low cost absolute position tracking system that we developed ourselves. 

Omni-directional movement is enabled by two rotating treadmill modules under the VR shoes which can turn to change the direction of the movement so that the user can be moved sideways (if needed) bringing them back to the centre. In VR, the user won't be able to feel that they are moving sideways unless it's intentional like a side-step, this is because we are trying to correct their position (return to centre); this type of corrective sideways movement is gradual and won't be noticed as it's done over several steps. 

Each VR Shoe communicates using a Bluetooth network and uses OpenVR to integrate with a VR game or experience. This makes it compatible with many existing PC VR games and simulations without any extra work involved from the developers.

These look like roller skates, do they feel slippery?

People who have not tried Freeaim's VR shoes may be concerned they feel slippery or slide like roller skates, but they do not. Walking on the VR shoes feels stable, similar to walking on a normal Gym treadmill. Instead of the treadmill being on the floor, the treadmill is under your feet. The wide wheel base and high friction rubber treadmills create excellent traction and stability.

Changes in speed and acceleration are tuned so that the user has a natural walking experience in VR, and these settings can be changed from a beginner/learner mode to a more advanced settings, where the VR shoes are more responsive for gaming etc.

It is difficult for a user to make the wheels & treadmills move by pushing the VR Shoes, even while turned off, so you can walk around with them like normal shoes while getting ready.

How do they feel compared to Kat Walk C, or other Slidemills?

Walking on slidemills has been described as "an ice-skating feeling", “playing laser tag on ice wearing bowling shoes”,  and “confined in a dish and pushing awkwardly against it". 

This is due to your feet being able to slide in any direction, which would never occur during normal walking. Thereby, you are struggling against your harness which keeps you in place. This gives an unnatural feeling.

Since the VR shoes use motors, they will drive you back to position. This removes the problems above and gives the natural feeling of walking on a treadmill instead. No sliding feeling, or pushing against a harness.

Will they work on carpet?

No, but there will be an option to buy a floor mat with the VR shoes with which it will work on all surfaces including carpet.

What is the weight limit?

We currently do not know the exact weight limit yet. Testing for the maximum weight limit will be done soon. We have had no issues with several people weighing up to 85kg, and we will try to make the VR Shoes support as high a weight as possible; our target is 120kg. 

Can you run on the VR shoes?

Currently, they only support a fast walk, but the movement can be scaled up in-game. So you walk in real life but run in-game. That will also help with not getting tired after a few minutes.

It would be great to support running, but there are some technical hurdles to overcome, such as shock absorption and safety. For the first version we release, walking must work really well, and it must be reliable at an affordable price, and of course be safe to use. A second version would build on that and add tons of extra features, which could include running.

What about safety?

We have safety checks built-in throughout the software and hardware, and we will perform extensive user tests to ensure a safe, reliable product with clear guidance on correct use.

Multiple, different types of sensors are used to detect states such as start, stop etc, so a fault in a single sensor could not cause unwanted movement and there are many checks on the data and error handling if things go wrong. We take experience from aerospace and automotive projects when developing our state machine, algorithms and software.

We do intend to offer an optional support frame to all users, and this would especially useful for multi-user environments such as VR arcades, classrooms and workplaces.

How much will they cost?

Our main goal is to keep the cost as low as we can, so as many people can afford them as possible. Since there is a lot of technology involved in the VR shoes (internal tracking, powerful motors), we price would not be very cheap. Our goal is to be more affordable than the alternative for consumers which is a Slidemill. It's really hard to talk about price, there are so many factors but be assured, we're working so hard to make this the most affordable VR locomotion system. 

Are they comfortable?

Even though what we have shown are prototypes, they are already quite comfortable. They weigh about 1.2kg per shoe (including battery), which is similar to a boot or leather shoe. They can bend with your foot and do not restrict movement. Production versions will use softer, more comfortable materials (like the kind of foam trainers are made from) and a more ergonomic design which fits a wide range of foot size, but not children's sizes.

Can I buy them, or get a Demo?

The shoes will be sold to both consumers and businesses and we will announce the release as soon as we can, and we may commence sales with a crowd funding campaign. Please subscribe to our newsletter if you would like to be kept up to date.

We are able to provide demonstrations in some cases, for example if you are an investor or a potential business partner, but for the general public we don't have the staff available yet so please stay tuned to our social media and we will let you know when we're heading to expos.

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