After watching his nephew glide around on a hoverboard, Rick Tett became inspired. Fast forward a few months, and he had an idea. What if a hoverboard’s control scheme could be combined with a virtual reality headset?
So, Tett set out to accomplish just that.
“The idea was kindled after I attended a meeting of the UTD VR Society where Dr. Ryan McMahan talked about the challenge of locomotion in Virtual Reality,” Tett told Dallas Innovates.
Tett’s idea, a foot-operated game controller, forms the basis of his company: HoboLoco. A mashup of “hoverboard” and “locomotion,” HoboLoco develops controllers that Tett says not only make it possible for someone without hands to play video games, but also enhance the performance and enjoyment of all video game and VR users with intuitive and ergonomic design.
“It became apparent after building and testing prototypes that this device might have even more value as part of a solution for those who have difficulty with hand controllers to play video games.”
HoboLoco’s newly patented “virtual reality locomotion device,” allows users to play video games by using their feet in the same way that a keyboard, mouse, and gamepad are typically used. The controller works with any gaming platform through USB or Bluetooth connections.
The device loosely resembles a hoverboard, but it’s stationary, with no wheels. The controller allows for movement in every direction and can let the player walk, ride, or drive within a video game, while some games offer additional in-game actions. There are also vibration features embedded in the device to allow players to feel like they’re moving.
The controller’s abilities may not stop at video games. Tett—who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in innovation & entrepreneurship from UT Dallas—could see his device possibly working with remotely controlling robots and helping people with rehabilitation. He also hopes that this foot-operated controller will benefit wounded veterans, those who were born with missing hands or arms, and others.
So far, Tett says he’s tested the device with popular video games, such as Fortnite and Fallout 4. He recalls an 18-year-old who was born with one hand’s response after using the HoboLoco device for an hour: “Amazing. I’ve never been able to play a game this well.”
“I’m just starting to get some exposure to the device and the reactions are great. I recently demo’d it for the director of an esports team and he commented that it is quite intuitive to use. He also said gamers are looking for new advantages,” Tett says. “It became apparent after building and testing prototypes that this device might have even more value as part of a solution for those who have difficulty with hand controllers to play video games.”
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