Virtuix Omni vs. Cyberith Virtualizer vs. George Burger's Infinadeck: Battle of the First Omnidirectional VR Treadmills
Three seems to be the magic number in the field of virtual/augmented reality this year. There are three groundbreaking products set to be made available within the next 12-24 months – the Oculus Rift, Sony's Project Morpheus, and Microsoft's HoloLens (which will be more of an augmented/mixed reality device). To help you learn about the differences between and features of these devices, we've already done a thorough comparison of the Rift, Hololens, and Morpheus.
It just so happens that there are also three major designs in the works for omnidirectional VR treadmills – the Cyberith Virtualizer, Infinadeck, and Virtuix Omni. For you non-techies out there, an omnidirectional VR treadmill is a platform that lets you walk or run in any direction (with the obvious benefit being that you'll be able to move around within virtual worlds rather than just observing them).
In the following paragraphs we'll conduct a thorough comparison of these three conceptual products based on three key factors (Functionality/Features, Design/Development, and Practicality/Price) to see which one is most likely to become the first commercially viable VR treadmill to hit the market:
Functionality and Features
As far as uniqueness is concerned, the Infinadeck stands apart from the pack because it is the only prototype VR treadmill that uses a non-passive approach.
In other words, while the Cyberith Virtualizer and Virtuix Omni use low-friction to allow the user to walk in place (acting as pseudo-treadmills that facilitate sliding more than actual stepping), the Infinadeck is an actual treadmill that moves underneath the feet of the user (click the link in the second paragraph above to see a more through explanation of how the Infinadeck works and how it differs from the other two treadmills in this comparison).
Now that we've covered the basic difference between the Infinadeck and it's two primary competitors, what are the key differences between the Omni and the Virtualizer? First, you'll notice that the Omni has a dip in the center of the platform, rather than a universally flat surface. Virtuix has stated that this curvature is designed to simulate the feel of a natural walking or running motion. Then there are some differences in the development and design as well.
Design and Development
We can tell you at a glance that the Omni has more aesthetic appeal and a more market-ready design factor. This is probably due to the fact that more resources have been poured into its development, whereas the development of the Cyberith Virtualizer has been spearheaded by one man (Tuncay Cakmak) and his team.
Perhaps the most impressive of the three in regard to development is the Infinadeck, being that it was designed and built exclusively by one man – George Burger, the Head of New Product Development at Louisville Slugger (yes, that's the same company that makes baseball bats).
However, the Infinadeck has a number of flaws that need to be ironed out before reaching consumers. Namely, the device needs to be made quieter, safer, and more responsive to the user's movements. For this reason it is likely that the release of Infinadeck or a similar non-passive VR treadmill would come as a second-generation product after the first wave of passive treadmills have been released.
On the other hand, the Virtuix Omni is almost consumer-ready, as the production version was just shown off last month at CES 2015. The Cyberith Virtualizer has also come along way in it's development, having already demonstrated its capabilities when used with the developer's version of the Oculus Rift.
As far as design goes, the Virtuix Omni appears to have the upper hand here, with a green and black color scheme that goes well with the Xbox theme, a curvy platform, and an overall design that is clearly more refined than the current versions of the Virtualizer or Infinadeck.
Practicality and Price
The Infinadeck's non-passive approach (with actual moving parts) seems to be moving towards the most realistic VR treadmill in terms of immersion and physical interaction. While the Virtuix Omni and Cyberith Virtualizer do allow the user to move around freely, they don't cause the ground to move beneath your feet, which of course is the sensation we're all accustomed to when walking around in the real world.
Therefore, we feel the Infinadeck has the upper hand as far as realism is concerned, as the user gets to feel as though they are actually moving around and not just sliding their feet in place.
However, the Infinadeck's moving parts and larger size also make it a bit less practical for some living rooms, and there are also safety concerns to consider,as the user could actually fall and hurt themselves. Still, there is a risk of falling anytime you use any treadmill, and a consumer version could be outfitted with a harness and safety ring to keep the user stable within a predefined area of the platform.
With that said, it is likely that the Infinadeck would be more expensive, bulkier, heavier, and potentially more dangerous than the Omni and Virtualizer, both of which would fit in almost any room and are constructed from relatively affordable materials.
As far as which one of these products will hit the market first, it seems the Virtuix Omni has the biggest headstart, as the production model that will be available to consumers was already shown off last month CES 2015.
With that said, the Cyberith Virtualizer might be offered as an alternative brand, and could possibly come in at a lower price tag than the current $699 pre-order price of the Omni (the pre-order price used to be $499, but was raised on February 1st of this year due to the increased production cost of the recently revealed consumer version).
As far as a release date for the Infinadeck, it looks as if it will be a few more years before a consumer version of that product could become available, and when it does it will most likely be a high-end alternative that comes with the benefit of added realism.