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Future Tech: 

5 VR accessories that could bring gaming to life


“And you’re sure we look cool, right? Definitely not at all ridiculous?”

Oculus Rift isn’t even available to buy yet, but there are already tech companies queuing up to make it better. You see, virtual reality by itself is fun; you can strap on a headset and find yourself transported to another world, filled with practically anything that developers dream up and decide to throw at you. To make that experience feel real though – or put the ‘reality’ back into virtual reality, if you will – you kind of need to ditch the controller.

That’s not intended as a slight against the trusty gamepad, it’s served us well, but if we’re going to get spooked out walking through a virtual forest then we’re going to need to forget that the forest isn’t real. So, how do you go about enhancing your enhanced gaming experience? Here’s a few VR accessories that could help bring future games to life.

The VR accessories bringing games to life;

1. Virtuix Omni

The Virtuix Omni was a hit on Kickstarter back in 2013, replacing your controller with an omni-directional treadmill that monitors the speed and direction of your movements and mirrors them on screen. Sticking with our spooky virtual forest example above, then, you can decide exactly how to navigate through the darkness, choosing whether to creep, walk or just leg it to the nearest exit.

As well as feeling much more realistic, the advantage of a treadmill is that you won’t go bashing into the living room furniture, and it also comes with a special shoe designed to stop you falling over. The downside is that the complete package is going to set you back around $699, and the treadmill isn’t exactly inconspicuous.

2. Birdly

Speaking of VR accessories that stick out like a sore thumb, this clunky VR flying machine is bound to look right at home. Once you’ve strapped yourself in, though, you’ll be able fly around town like a giant bird – which is nice. We can’t think of many games you’d actually use it for, but we’d love to try it out nonetheless.

Birdly, then, probably isn’t going to be the kind of apparatus you’d have at home (we’ve already got enough single-use gaming controllers clogging up our cupboards), but you could easily see this kind of simulation being used in exhibitions, installations or even arcade-style gaming.

3. Sixense STEM

So, that’s walking, running and flying sorted, but what about all the other things that games require us to do? As you might expect there a number of peripherals in development to help us defend ourselves against video game nasties, and while admittedly they’re mostly gun-shaped, they can also help us to do other things as well.

Take STEM, for instance, a motion tracking device that’s built around a central base station, registering the movements of our hands, head, body, or whatever configuration we decide. The platform is open to the public so developers can build their games around it, allowing us to wield everything from baseball bats to lightsabers. As you can see from the video above, though, that hasn’t helped developers get over their gun obsession.

4. Hands Omni

According to researchers at Rice University, virtual reality is great for its audio and visual features, but lacks a sense of touch. Their solution is Hands Omni, a glove that lets users feel objects as they touch them in the game using the latest haptic technology – the specifics of which they’re keeping under wraps for now.

The product is still in the development stage, but it’s being sponsored by Virtuix, who you will remember from the Omni treadmill featured above. While the research team claims to already have a working prototype, Virtuix will help them get the glove to the point where it’s ready for market.

5. The Void

Finally, The Void isn’t so much as a VR accessory, as it is lots of VR accessories combined to create an ultimate VR gaming experience. Think of it like laser tag, except instead of looking a lot like the dark warehouse in which its housed, your surroundings can be transformed completely through virtual reality, taking place in a futuristic space station, for instance, or a treacherous icy terrain. Watch the suitably dramatic promo video above for some idea of the scope of this thing.

There’s currently a team of 30 people developing the game, who are not only creating the surroundings and the stories that you’ll play through, but also their own VR headsets, gloves and body tracking system. It’s an enormous project, but the team hope they can open in Salt Lake City in the summer of 2016, with hopes of expanding to other cities around the world should it succeed.

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