Have you ever wondered what it would be like to wander around virtual worlds using your own two feet? Now imagine doing that for your daily exercise. This is the future of movement and it's still under construction. Treadmill technology has evolved over time from a labor and punishment device into the workhorse of the cardiovascular fitness industry.
The next step in its evolution the omnidirectional treadmill is sure to revolutionize more than just the fitness industry. But what is an omnidirectional treadmill? Well, you can run or walk in any direction on this type of treadmill as opposed to a traditional treadmill that only one goes one way. The mechanics to create such a treadmill are both simple and complex all at once. In fact, there are two ways to create an omnidirectional treadmill: passive and active.
The passive method involves a stationary device with no moving parts except the human body. If you've been reading up on CES 2014 or the treadmill's popular Kickstarter campaign, then you've probably seen the Virtuix Omni; this is passive treadmill technology. The Omni treadmill is built to work with video games, but it's capable of so much more. So how does it work?
The Omni resembles a concave dish with a low friction, grooved surface and a safety structure that keeps you upright as you move within your virtual world. With the help of special yet stylish shoes, you have complete freedom of movement. Of course, it's worth mentioning that the Virtuix Omni's current design requires virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift to work properly.
The active method is much more complex in its implementation. With an active unit, the machine responds to your movement by moving a surface below your feet as you walk and keeping you in the center. This version is less likely to require a safety harness or special footwear. Its mechanical complexity makes it a much more expensive option. But it comes with one major advantage: the system is capable of much more than a passive device.
An active omnidirectional treadmill can provide you with better incline and decline simulations, and a greater potential for you to get better feedback during your workout, similar to modern treadmills. However, don't expect to see this technology hit the market anytime soon. Even if it does become available, it may be out of reach for all but the wealthiest people or organizations for quite some time.
Omnidirectional Treadmills and Fitness
This is some seriously cool technology with great potential to revolutionize video games and simulations. So how does it help you with your fitness goals and why would you want it? Here are some points that you should consider before you become an early adopter, including freedom of movement, practicality and motivation.
With freedom of movement, the world is your oyster. There is no obligatory requirement to go only one way. Within a virtual environment, maybe you want to take a turn down a side street, but it definitely doesn't feel like a turn when you're running in a straight line. You can explore or make detours at your leisure.
The practical aspect of omnidirectional treadmills is that you can simulate the real world. If you're training for the Boston Marathon, wouldn't it be nice to run the course several times before the day of the race? This can help you maintain your focus to reach your goals by establishing a benchmark to overcome.
Finally, motivation is everything. With this technology, you can run anywhere, see anything and explore the world. Is there any better motivation than that?
The choice is yours: you can continue running in a straight line on a traditional treadmill, or you can go places. Even if this never comes true, it's up to you to decide what to think about omnidirectional treadmills and how they can revolutionize the way we look at fitness, video games and the world in general.