VR Treadmills Could Put You Right in the Middle of the Action

Real movements in a virtual environment

  • A new virtual reality treadmill launching on Kickstarter is aimed at home users.
  • The Kat Walk C treadmill will cost around $1,000. 
  • One expert says that treadmills can add a whole new dimension to VR.
The Kat Walk Treadmill against a VR background.


Your next trip to virtual reality (VR) could get your heart pumping faster thanks to one of a growing number of real-life treadmills. 

Kat VR plans to release a gaming treadmill that works with VR headsets. The company claims the device will provide 360° of movement in VR from a single spot at your home. 

"An omnidirectional treadmill is tuned to your body, so while you're running, they're doing calculations to make sure you're not going to run off the treadmill (there's also safety harnesses)," Jake Maymar, the vice president of innovation at the VR company The Glimpse Group told Lifewire in an email interview. "You can navigate through hand tracking or a one-handed controller and basically explore an infinite space in VR. It eliminates the confines of a traditional room."

Going Nowhere Fast

Kat VR is touting its Kat Walk C on Kickstarter as an upgrade to its original Kat Walk VR treadmill that launched in 2015 and  KAT Walk C, which launched on Kickstarter in 2020. The company says it met its initial funding goal in the first five minutes of launch and has already garnered about $1 million.

The new Kat Walk C2 lets you walk in place with a low-friction surface while wearing special slippery shoes. The company says the C2 lets users run, jump, crouch, tilt from side to side, and lean forward. The new model supposedly has improved foot tracking and improved shoes.  

While Kat says the Walk C will cost about $1,000, other home VR treadmills are being touted at several times that price. For example, the Virtuix Omni One, which is meant for gaming, will cost about $2,000 when it goes on sale. 

"With Omni One, your home becomes a portal into new worlds and gaming adventures like never before," Jan Goetgeluk, Virtuix's CEO, said in a news release. "For the first time, you're no longer restricted by the limited space in your home. You can roam endlessly around immersive virtual worlds as you would in real life, using your whole body."

The interest in VR treadmills is part of a trend toward adding haptics to the virtual experience, Maymar said. For example, The Tesla Suit has full-body haptics that can simulate a range of sensations. 

"With the omnidirectional treadmill, you can explore an infinite world, and you can feel the wind, particles hitting your face, a hand on your shoulder," Maymar added. "With haptic illusion, you can simulate the feeling of wood or metal, and you can simulate what it feels like to be wet. The next frontier is the sense of smell."

Not Just for Fun

Maymar said that VR on treadmills could be used for entertainment or exercise and physical therapy. One of the biggest hurdles in physical therapy is getting patients to overcome their perception of what is and isn't possible. VR can be critical for overcoming that hurdle, he added.  

The different uses for the Kat Walk C2


Studies have shown that patients with Parkinson's can regain enough motor control to paint while using VR, even though their hands would be too shaky to paint in the real world, Maymar pointed out. 

"Standard exercise on a treadmill can be incredibly boring, especially for physical therapy purposes," Maymar said. "But on a VR treadmill, you can be running in an arena and playing a game. Your mind can be focused on the exciting VR experience rather than running on the treadmill, and it gives you an opportunity to go further than you would normally go. That's great for entertainment or exercise, but it's absolutely vital for physical therapy."

For home users, Maymar predicted that VR treadmills like the Kat model will get more compact and safer. But in the future, he said, we'll also see omnidirectional treadmills which simulate a surface, like a hiking path full of rocks and inclines. 

"They'll have haptic feedback—as things explode next to you, there will be a rumble both on your person and on the floor," Maymar said. "You'll also be able to do unusual movements quickly, like backflips."

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