VR is at the moment not that disabled-friendly: it is all focused on room scaling, locomotion methods and natural interactions with hands. For most of us this is great, since it enables us to do in VR what we can do in real life. But what about people that can’t do these things in real life, because for example they don’t have hands or legs? How can you do room scale with someone that is on a wheelchair? Some games also require you to stand up, crouch and sit down to finish all the game (epic experience The Price of Freedom is one of them). How to make disabled people enjoy this kind of games? Well, one guy decided to solve this issue and created Walkin VR, a VR software to make disabled people enjoy VR.
I decided to review it, so to give you some feedbacks about this interesting project (that you have to support!). You can read more about it on its official website and you can download it from the relative download page. Download process is a bit a nuisance, since you have to register to download an evaluation version of the software. Then when you launch the program, you’ve to type in your username and password again. I can understand why it is done this way, but all these logins just to evaluate a software are just annoying. Furthermore, the first password I chose for my account was accepted by the online system, but not by the application that continued telling me it couldn’t authenticate my user. I had to reset my password and use an alphanumeric-only one to be able to login into the app.
Anyway, little nuiscances aparts, the software works this way. You install Walkin VR, then when you open SteamVR, it pops up automatically. SteamVR status window will show you a little wheelchair icon, meaning that it detected Walkin VR. If the icon is grey, Walkin VR is not active, while if it is green, Walkin VR is up and running.
In the Walkin VR status window you’ll see your current headset and controllers. You have to select each controller and associate it to a movement action. For example, you can take the right controller and say that when its Grip trigger (the medium-finger button, the one used to take objects in VR) is pressed and the controller is moved, the system should rotate the player. Then you press the button to start Walkin VR… and voilà! You can move in VR while being sit on a chair! Awesome!
You can associate two kind of actions: movement (translation, room scale) and rotation (body rotation i.e. the whole world rotation… if you’re bond to a wheelchair, rotating 360-degrees is not that easy). And you can associate them to 3 buttons of each of your controllers (System (e.g. Oculus menu), Menu (didn’t test it) and Grip (medium-finger trigger on Touch)). What the program does under the hood is associating that button of that controller to some room-scale movement. So, if you associate translation with one controller and rotation with another, you can just move completely in VR without moving in your room at all! The movement happens as you were “grabbing the handles of the world”, i.e. in a movement similar to climbing. So if I’ve associated translation with my right Touch controller’s grip trigger, if I straighten my arm, press the middle-trigger on my right Touch and then move my hand towards my body (from forward towards backwards), I move forward. A similar mechanism can be used for rotation.
The moving mechanic is great. Really, it is very easy to get and very smooth to be performed. Of course you have to get used a bit to it, but that’s normal. There are only some issues:
- Sometimes it is like SteamVR finds it hard to keep pace with the Walkin VR locomotion and movement becomes a little sloppy;
- The fact that you use a trigger to move yourself means that if the game you’re playing requires the use of that trigger, gaming can become difficult;
- If you use “System” trigger with Oculus Touch, well, it will trigger the Oculus Menu, always;
- Since you move while staying still, you obviously suffer from motion sickness. Due to the nature of the application, this is not avoidable. I’ve suffered a bit from it while playing, especially when I moved very fast;
- On some games it doesn’t work: I tested it with Nvidia VR Funhouse and it didn’t work at all (don’t know why);
- It is a SteamVR-only mechanic.
I decided to test the system with the above mentioned game The price of Freedom and it let me play the game even if I was completely stuck on my chair. I moved only using controllers.
This kind of movement doesn’t simulate a walking locomotion, but it is like an enhanced room-scale, so you can move left, right, up, down… whatever. I think that it is not good only for disabled, but also for people that want to try room-scale games in little spaces, like me in the office. Or if you’re very lazy and don’t want to stand up. Or, more seriously, if you’re a developer and don’t want to continuously stand up and sit down to debug a VR game.
Or… if you want to cheat. Because this locomotion method can also give you some unfair advantage over other people: you can move very fast using your controllers, but mainly you can move everywhere! For the room-scale system, whatever translation you make is OK and usually you don’t have collision detection while you move (this is due to the fact that having something blocking you in VR while you translate in the real world is very weird… we tested it when we were developing ImmotionRoom). So, with this system I can translate up and up and up and finish in the sky, or going below the floor… or even crossing barriers.
Game designers assume that you in room scale can move in an a maximum 4x4m area… with this method you can move using an endless virtual room, so you can break all the rules of the games! In Master Shot VR I moved very close to targets (that I was supposed to shot at distance) and shot them all without much complication. This method is also great for cheaters!
Ok, so this awesome system for disabled, people with little houses and cheaters… how much does it cost? For free you can take an evaluation version that can make you play gaming sessions of 10 minutes. After this time you have to close everything (Walkin VR and SteamVR) to be able to play again. If you don’t close everything, you just return to standard SteamVR, nothing explodes. If you want to have the full version without timing limits, you have to pay €32. If you’re a commercial entity, instead, you have to buy the commercial license and it costs €52 + €48 for each month.
My opinion is that this is surely a valuable application: it still needs some refinements, but it is a great product that can enable lots of people to start enjoying VR as I’m doing right now. Room scale for everyone!
Hope you liked my review… if this is the case, plase share this article to spread the knowledge of this commendable application. And please, also register to my newsletter to have more VR news! (Look at the right sidebar…)
UPDATE: Walkin VR author contacted me and about cheating in games using his software and told me that
I think it is worth mentioning that in online games there is usually no issue with WalkinVR since they are well protected. See my video test with Pavlov VR:
(Header image by Walkin VR)