High-Tech Clothes Could Make VR More Convincing

Get your moon boots on

Key Takeaways

  • You can now buy boots for use in VR that could make walking in VR more realistic.
  • The in-development Omni One treadmill allows users to walk and run in place while in VR.
  • Future VR products might even include spraying scents into your face.
Boy wearing VR goggles walking across imaginary painted planet in space

Klaus Vedfelt / Getty Images

Virtual reality (VR) isn’t just about what you see. 

Ekto VR has revealed a pair of boots intended to make VR worlds feel much more immersive and less nauseating to walk around. It’s one of a growing number of gadgets designed to make VR feel more realistic as the technology advances. 

“VR is inherently spatialized and embodied, but at the current moment in its evolution, it is primarily only engaging the visual and auditory senses, which limits the depth of immersion for the user,” Amir Bozorgzadeh, CEO of VR company Virtuleap, told Lifewire in an email interview.

Boot Up

Ekto’s current boots are likely out of the price range of casual VR users as they cost $15,000. They’re intended for corporate training environments, but the company plans to release more consumer-friendly versions. 

In the meantime, there is a range of other products designed to enhance the realism of virtual reality. For example, the 3DRudder footpad allows you to control movement in VR by leaning and tilting your feet. 

If you want to go full-body, though, consider a suit that allows you to feel what's happening in VR, like the ElecSuit. Currently an IndieGoGo project, it's meant for electrical stimulation and VR gaming; the company behind it claims the suit stimulates your muscles by sending electrical signals directly to your body.

"Exercises are trickier than we think sometimes," the company writes on its website. "With ElecSuit, electrical signals will cue which muscles you should work on for each exercise. With the chair pose in yoga, for example, it's easy to overlook that you have to work your core too."

...at the current moment in its evolution, it is primarily only engaging the visual and auditory senses...

If being shocked while doing yoga doesn’t sound fun, you might consider gloves like the recently announced TactGlove, a pair of $299 haptic gloves for the consumer market. The gloves have motors placed at each fingertip and are individually controllable using special software, allowing content developers to program precise feedback.

For a full-body experience, there’s the in-development Omni One treadmill that allows users to walk and run in place while in a VR space. Similar VR treadmills already exist and can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but the makers of the Omni One claim it will be priced at less than $2,000.

Feedback Loops

Going forward, developers say more input devices are needed to get the most out of VR.

"We're honestly at such an early stage with the development in this area, so the future is quite broad from my perspective," Luke Thompson, Chief Operating Officer of the visual effects company ActionVFX, which is transitioning its products to be compatible with VR software, told Lifewire in an email interview.

Future VR products might even include spraying scents into your face. The FEELREAL Multisensory VR Mask, for example, uses different smells when playing VR games to enhance the realism. The company producing the mask states the product releases each scent in small amounts via triggers planted throughout games and movies. 

Man wearing VR headset and having immersive experience in nature

Vasilina Popova / Getty Images

"Pull the trigger, and you'll smell gunpowder; pick up the mug, and you'll feel the aroma of freshly brewed coffee," according to the company's website. "Liquids are vapored in small quantities under the user's nose, and it makes [the] Feelreal Mask a perfect gadget for individual use. Wearing it, you won't be bothering anyone with your entertainment routine."

Bozorgzadeh is optimistic that with devices like smell masks, VR will soon be a lot more than just a headset.

"Add-ons that incorporate the other senses, like scent and haptics (touch), will inevitably increase the number of senses that a particular 3D environment can engage and, so, become an ever more compelling reality that our whole bodies believe is as authentic as the real one," he said.

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