PocketStrafe Is A Different Answer To VR Locomotion Issues

by Charles Singletary • December 21st, 2016

Locomotion in virtual reality experiences and games is something that hasn’t been figured out entirely just yet. With headset tracking and sensors, players can move around defined spaces that reflect the rooms they inhabit to a degree, but you’re limited by the size of your physical space. And while there are options like teleporting to expand that area, that breaks immersion and depends on the use of controllers for movement. Omni-directional treadmills like the Virtuix Omni are the most immersive of the bunch from a physical perspective, but they’re bulky and not very practical for the average consumer.

None of these truly display a reliable option in a small form factor that can trick our minds as we move around the larger landscapes some VR games offer. However, the small team at Cool Font has a new app that may open a new door for movement in virtual reality.

PocketStrafe is a mobile app for IOS and Android that connects to a PC (currently compatible with both Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets) through Wi-Fi. With it, you calibrate to your specific measurements, put your device into your pocket, and run in place to move throughout various compatible VR games.

The movement itself can be paired to different forms of input from a keyboard to an attached controller. Immediately this type of movement is beneficial in a couple ways: 1) Running in place carefully will keep headset wearers from walking into furniture and people while playing and 2) this can be a pretty decent cardio workout. Physically, it’s similar to other ‘running in place’ movement systems we’ve seen, but it frees up both hands and lets you use both controllers still, making it unique.

VR has the uncanny ability to trick our eyes, mind, and inner ear into sensations of movement or vertigo. Because of that, moving quickly or changing directions suddenly without physically having to move in such a manner creates bouts of motion sickness. Exhibiting some physical form of locomotion like in PocketStrafe can hopefully alleviate some of those issues for those impacted.

PocketStrafe is available on IOS and Android for the current sale price of $0.99.

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  • unreal_ed

    I’m always happy to see devs trying things out but I just don’t see running in place being a good solution, even if you get it working perfectly (but here there’s pretty noticeable lag). I’ve never thought that someone looked goofy using VR but walking in place looks really dumb.

    • Daniel Harborne

      I don’t think how you look while using VR matters so much and at least the VR community will stay fit when they cease to leave their rooms 😛

      Your point about the lag is very relevant though, if it breaks the immersion then it’s pointless….

      • unreal_ed

        I do think that how you look matters for a lot of people. It matters 0% for me and pretty much all VR evangelists (which is what all current VR consumers are), but not for ALL people.

        Even playing video games for years was something that was looked down upon and that affected the industry. It made it more geared toward one demographic (the one that WAS buying it) and less inclusive. Same would apply here, but that could mean VR sales not matching expectations, thus devs finding less money to make games, and the cycle feeds back on itself.

        • Daniel Harborne

          Except that VR will be/is adopted by industry as well as recreational. This will give a lot of momentum to the platform. I think we are currently seeing low uptake in the gaming industry because the platform isn’t accessible. The price barrier is too high. This will change upon future iterations of graphical and headset technologies.

          We’re also lacking games that mean you HAVE to have VR. Even with the adoption rate of PSVR, the games there are full retail price but for “experiences” not high tier 40 hour games.

          While the VR content is in the form of “Experiences” and while only the enthusiasts have the hardware, then yes people might go to one person’s house and will be watching their friends play. Once we see a 40 hour triple-A title released , that’s something people will enjoy on their own. With no one to see them jog on the spot.

          I also don’t think anyone will look down on VR usage when they can get an affordable headset for their pc/console of their choice and play call of duty in VR (jogging on the spot or not) or when we have more mainstream content like Facebook VR, Youtube VR and Windows VR.

          At the risk of saying ” I did it before it was cool” I remember when I had one of the first HTC smartphones people laughed at that… why do you need such a big phone etc… and I said it’s such a different tool than a standard phone and you’ll want one soon enough (i probably didn’t use the word “tool”)…. now everyone “needs” a smartphone in their lives. I think VR will go through that same cycle. Especially if you watch how people of all ages react to putting on a headset for the first time. Which again is another reason why I don’t think we’ll have the same sub culture for VR that gaming had.

          Wow, extremely long post… sorry !! :S

    • Doctor Bambi

      I’ve occasionally run in place to try and mimic my character movement in games, just to see how it translates. I found the most annoying thing to be the inevitable rough jostling of the HMD itself as your foot hits the ground. It also introduces more balance issues into the equation, you can even see the guy in this video start to lose his balance frequently.

      • CoolFont

        Hey that’s me :D! I mainly lose my balance when going down slopes, off cliffs, etc. It’s kind of a crazy feeling. But running around as normal is pretty natural! To be honest, the annoying thing to me is stepping on cables, but you kinda get used to that.

        Jostling of the HMD is more noticeable to observers than to the person actually playing. It feels pretty realistic in first person.

        -Mitchell

        • Ehi, we think that what you do is cool… check us at Immotionar, we too use running in place in our SDK!

          • CoolFont

            Really cool, I didn’t realize you guys implemented running in place as well!

          • Thanks! I saw also a Unity plugin somewhere that tries to detect walking using wobbling of the headset when the user walks in place… walking in place rocks!

          • These are great entry level solutions that are sure to get more people interested in VR. Keep it up!

        • Doctor Bambi

          Oh hai there! 🙂 Good points, thanks for sharing. Those darn cables plague all facets of VR activities.

    • Sam

      Also if you live in a place with people living in the floor under you, this might suck for them and then for you 😉

      • unreal_ed

        Oh man, yea. For a good amount of people that’s totally a dealbreaker. I hadn’t thought about that

  • Ctrl-Alt-Reality

    I had the pleasure of helping these guys out with beta testing. I find it increases the immersion massively. Just playing with with the settings for a minute or two will get it dialled in for you. You don’t have to run so much as you can get away with a brisk walk. Tried it with AltSpaceVR’s maze & Minecraft, but the most immersive I’ve found so far is The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. PocketStrafe is awesome! Since I’m sensitive to VR sickness while trying to walk with thumbsticks, this has been amazingly freeing for me. No nausea! I was a kickstarter backer for the Virtuix Omni, but now they have cancelled any shipments outside of the US (I’m in Australia), so this has been my saviour. I’m now searching far and wide for open world VR experiences without teleportation locomotion. Wish Skyrim had native VR support… not Vorpx.
    Can’t recommend PocketStrafe enough!

  • Roland

    you can’t go backward with this device

  • jimrp

    Thats what i was thinking of why someone has not come out with this.

  • Adderstone VR

    Just bought the app, will test tonight.

  • GroovyMonster

    Interesting idea, but yeah, I gotta say…it looks really silly in use. Like, dumb silly. 😀

  • jimrp

    What i hear is im lazy and i dont want to walk. Why would you care what people think of how you would look. It not like you are in the middle of a sidewalk. Even then tell them to FK off. Bunch of snowflakes on here. If this kind of thought process happened when games where just pong. We would probably not be seeing this stuff today.

  • flavortang

    I’d like to see arm sway made as an option for more VR simulations. It’s less taxing on the body and just as natural.