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.
So far, Tett says he’s tested the device with popular video games like Fortnite and Fallout 4.
The new controller is starting to get exposure, the founder says, and “the reactions are great.”
Tett says that “gamers are always seeking new advantages.” In one demo, the director of an esports team had a chance to try out the device and described it as remarkably intuitive.
But 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 veterans who have sustained injuries, people with upper limb differences, and those facing other physical challenges.
He recalls the response of one 18-year-old, born with one hand, after using the HoboLoco device for an hour: “Amazing. I’ve never been able to play a game this well.”
Tett says it was apparent after building and testing prototypes that his 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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