This is the first in a series giving you an insider’s view of the products coming out of Pittsburgh to change the world.
To hear Mark Zuckerberg call it, the meta concept is taking over the world – and that means immersive experiences in every walk of life. Yet most of us think of meta as wearing 3D goggles or showing ourselves in some environment on screen. Brad Factor thought beyond that – he and his team at North Shore-based Ekto VR created a pair of boots that changes the whole meta experience for work and play.
Putting on a pair of VR goggles takes you into a new world. That opens lots of opportunities for games and new methods of conducting business from training videos to inspections.
But that same immersion that takes you away from the world is also a liability. With your senses cut off from the things around you, there’s a greater possibility of harm, for instance, by bumping into a wall or knocking over a lamp. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to worry about that? Wouldn’t it be great if you were always in the center of the room – even after walking 5 virtual miles?
That’s what Ekto VR’s product, Ekto One, does. These boots, when paired with sensors on other parts of your body act like a mini-Tesla, bringing your feet back to the center of the room even after you’ve been running or walking for miles.
Don your goggles; put on your sensors (in this case around your knees and on a vest); then strap these 12-pound boots on your feet and you’re ready. Artificial intelligence detects where you are, and sophisticated electronics and wheel mechanisms gently move you back to the center of the room.
Our tests included walking on a treadmill, adjusting controls in an oil refinery, and playing a game, complete with walking through a hall and down a short flight of steps. In each case, it took only a few moments to acclimate; then it felt natural, as if I were really moving.
No goggles were required to walk on a treadmill; it was like walking on one at the gym or in my home. But with Ekto VR, the treadmill doesn’t take up a large portion of the room; it’s on your feet. Step forward, it moves you backward.
Using VR goggles to put me in a desert scene that housed a virtual oil refinery, I was able to use the boots to walk around the refinery, find the valves that needed to be adjusted, and use a VR handset to open or close the valves. It felt like I was walking the length of a football field by the time all the segments were added up; but when my goggles came off, I was still in the middle of the room.
Ekto One is being developed for business and consumer markets by Ekto VR, based on the North Shore.
Know of a product or service being developed in Pittsburgh or by a Pittsburgh-based company that is cool, is creating growth, or will change the world? Let David know and you may see how it works or why it’s cool in these pages. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.