Published on January 31st, 2018 | by Michael Newman0
3D Rudder Review And Unboxing
In the ever-growing search for the perfect companion to our VR headsets we have seen haptic gloves, eye tracking hardware, but one of the most basic necessities to experience true VR is movement. There have been numerous attempts to address what some see as a fundamental problem with VR, but most fall short in this category. Room-Scale offers immense immersion but is severely limited by both the space of the physical environment as well as the restrictions on cable length and sensor range. We’ve seen various treadmill type designs, which while providing movement like abilities, are typically large and bulky devices that still lack some of the freedom that comes with room-scale. One final problem with any of the above solutions require that the person be standing the entire time, while certainly providing an aerobic workout (and really who doesn’t need that), can certainly limit all-night gaming sessions. This is where the team at 3DRudder hopes to address many of these limitations.
At this years CES2018 I had an opportunity to meet up with the innovative minds behind the 3DRudder. A round device, that plugs into your PC via a USB2.0 cable and along with the downloadable configuration software, allows you to use your feet to control your character in a game. Setup could not be any simpler, simply plug the USB cable into an available USB port and the device is instantly detected. The configuration application provides presets for a large number of games (both in VR and non-VR), but also allows the user to configure the 3DRudder in practically any way they wish.
Using the 3DRudder is very intuitive and takes very little time to learn to. Simply sit in your favorite chair and put your feet on the device, and a beep will inform you that it is ready to go. The 3DRudder provides for the use of 4 axes to move within your gaming world. Movements such as pushing forward on the 3DRudder to move your character forward or push back and your character moves backward. The 3DRudder also responds to tilting the device left /right, alternating pushing on your left foot/right heal or swiveling the device. It all feels natural after only playing with it for a few minutes. Just be aware that the device is meant to be used while sitting and is not designed for standing use.
I played various games both in VR and non-VR to get a feel for how the controller would respond to the different genres. I initially started with Fallout 4 VR, as it seemed like the perfect candidate for this type of controller. I’ve never been a fan of the implementation of teleportation into open world games, and while I sympathize that it can help folks who don’t have their “VR legs” on, for me it seriously takes away from the immersion of the game. The 3DRudder allowed me to move around the large world of Fallout 4 VR without the need to teleport. It does take some getting used to, and with smooth motion enabled allows you to turn more naturally (by rotating the device). It does take a bit of getting used to though and there were times when I was inadvertently rotating around in circle, which did make me a bit queasy. Honestly though, it still felt far more real then other variations and the software allows you to adjust your height, so while you are sitting, the game thinks your standing. I did have to play with the defaults a bit as the initial defaults felt as though I was playing as a dwarf in Fallout 4 VR, but the software is easy enough to adjust it quickly.
On the non-VR front I played some World of Warcraft. It handles the movement (typically reserved for WASD), so that you can have your fingers focused on spells or attacks. This took some getting used to, not due to any fault with the 3DRudder itself, but with my muscle memory always wanting to reach out to the WASD keys to manage my movement.
At CES2018 I played a demo where I was flying a vehicle through a city skyline. Utilizing the 3DRudder to control the rudder controls of the vehicle. The 3DRudder seems like the perfect companion to a HOTAS for some Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous gameplay, Unfortunately I didn’t have the opportunity to try these games myself.
Currently the 3DRudder only supports PC gaming experiences, but a console version is planned for later this year. Please check out my unboxing video below:
While the dream of VR experiences that mimic those on the USS Enterprise are likely a very distant dream, we can continue to strive to make it as life-like as possible. 3DRudder is a device that might just bring the dreams of a holodeck closer to reality.