AgileVR Looks to Simplify Virtual Reality Locomotion with a Knee-Worn Exoskeletal Sensor

Designed to let you move around VR by jogging on the spot, AgileVR looks to solve the locomotion problem and banish teleporting forever.

UK-based Mechatech Limited is looking to launch an exoskeleton device designed to simplify bringing physical locomotion into virtual reality, developed in partnership with the University of Leeds: AgileVR.

"Virtual reality (VR) is all about that feeling of immersion in a new world, a way to escape reality. The best VR experiences do this very well, but there is still a lot of room for improvement," claims Mechatech founder Robert Bloomfield. "In VR open worlds you move by teleporting or using your trackpad. Both of these methods compromise the feeling of immersion and can cause motion sickness."

"AgileVR is our solution to these locomotion problems. Once you put the AgileVR on your legs, the software captures your movements and transmits them via Bluetooth to your PC to control your movements in VR."

The core technology behind AgileVR was developed at the University of Leeds, while Mechatech itself has experience building robotic exoskeletons and is working on a full-body motion capture system. AgileVR, however, is simpler in that it is designed purely to capture motion from the wearer's legs.

"AgileVR has a polycentric joint to mimic the biomechanical behaviour of the human knee," claims Bloomfield. "This allows comfort levels more like a knee support. The inside of the product is lined with polyurethane moulded foam to maximise comfort for the user during long gaming sessions. The AgileVR modules are incredibly light and will weigh around 250g each, which is hardly noticeable when you are immersed in your favourite VR title."

Mechatech unveiled an initial version of AgileVR last year, seeking feedback from attendees at a gaming convention. What it has launched on Kickstarter this week is an upgraded version, tweaked based on feedback and replacing the tethered USB connections of its predecessor with Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity. Both designs include haptic feedback functionality, though the company says software support for this is not yet ready.

The company is raising funds for mass production on Kickstarter, with pricing started at £179 for early bird backers and rising to £219 as the standard Kickstarter price (around $223 to $273, respectively). All hardware is due to be delivered in January 2021.

More information is available on the AgileVR Kickstarter campaign page.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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