Roto Tackles Locomotion In VR With Motorized Chair, Pre-Orders Open Today

Roto VR announced that it will be launching its first product, the Roto motorized VR chair, this coming July. The company has opened pre-orders and is offering a discount for early adopters.

Virtual reality hardware is now rolling out to the mass market. The Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive headsets are steadily shipping to customers (albeit with delivery woes), and VR peripherals (accessories?) are starting to ship, too. Virtuix has been fulfilling backer orders since late last year, and 3DRudder just announced it is now shipping pre-ordered units.

Roto is another company hoping to grab a chunk of the VR market, and in some ways it's trying to solve the same problems as Virtuix and 3DRudder--that of comfortable VR locomotion. It also does a lot more than that, though.

The Roto includes a head tracking device that clips to your HMD. The Roto VR HeadTracker is linked to the chair's motors and spins the chair in the direction that you turn your head. Roto VR said that matching the rotation motion with the direction you look makes seating VR experiences much more comfortable. Elliot Myers, Founder of Roto VR, told us that this mode is “great for all movies, games and experiences out of the box,” including 2D games using VR injection drivers such as VorpX or Vireio Perception.

The Roto’s motors can also be mapped to the L and R joysticks on a controller instead of the head tracker. Myers said that this mode is suited for watching 360-degree videos and can also be used to create your own virtual ride. Developers don’t have to add support for the chair to their games, but an SDK will be released that will allow for programmed chair movements. Roto VR said this will allow movie directors to create theme park-like adventures from home.

Myers told us that the Roto chair can complement forward-facing cockpit games, such as Elite: Dangerous, Eve: Valkyrie or Project Cars, too. The company added a “cockpit mode” that limits rotation to 10% of the full spin, which Myers said “feels like an arcade simulator.”

The Roto also features a set of pedals--the Roto VR Touch Pedals--that allow for foot controls to produce decoupled motion in VR games. The company said you can take individual steps with the Touch Pedals, and your avatar will move the direction your body is facing, not the direction your head is facing. With the Roto VR chair, you can have independent movement of your gaze (head), aim (weapon) and your stride (the direction your body faces).

You might be wondering what stops the HMD cable from getting awfully tangled if the chair is spun by a motor, but Roto VR considered that and came up with a novel solution. The base of the chair includes ports for HDMI, USB and power cords. The Headset gets plugged into the Roto VR Cable Magazine, which is a swappable cartridge featuring the I/O ports. Roto said there will be two versions of Cable Magazine at launch. A single USB port and power lead Cable Magazine comes with the chair and is compatible with Gear VR and Google Cardboard. You’ll need the Advanced Cable Magazine with two HDMI ports, two USB ports, and power and audio jacks if you want to use an Oculus Rift, HTC Vive or PSVR with the Roto chair.

Roto also offers a Roto VR table accessory so that you can use advanced peripherals such as racing wheels or H.O.T.A.S systems, and you can add the Double Rumble Roto VR simulator pack for added force feedback.

The Roto VR chair will begin shipping to customer in July. The Roto will sell for $599, but the company is offering a $100 discount to early adopters. The Advanced Cable Magazine is $99, the Double Rumble kit sells for $149, and the Roto VR Table is $49.99.

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