A new Kickstarter campaign for a virtual reality (VR) system called Atlas is underway. The system promises to make a large walk-around area you have access to into a cheap and accessible version of the Star Trek Holodeck. Atlas makes use of other hardware; the Oculus Rift headset and an iPhone in a custom chest mount. The system makes these work together using location markers and an optional Razer Hydra-equipped gun (or sword) to create, map and interact with the VR environment.
The Atlas Kickstarter project was started by Aaron Rasmussen who says that he's wanted his own Holodeck since he was a child. He says that his technology can bring this kind of "real space virtual reality" to users, not for hundreds of thousands of dollars but for less than $100. (If you already own the headset, smartphone, warehouse area etc.) Rasmussen claims his system delivers the "most immersive VR yet". Looking at the video you can see him using the Atlas system walking and looking around the VR game world.
Using Atlas, to move in VR all you have to do is walk in the real world. Also adding a compatible gun or sword makes it much more fun to explore. Rasmussen enthusiastically says "you are exploring ancient Rome, you are fighting aliens" and with friends in multiplayer the experience is even more engaging.
Previous real space virtual reality systems have been in use for years in academic facilities but as well as the problems of cost and needing a permanent dedicated space the systems typically had "resolution falloff over long distances". Having the positional camera on the player (iPhone mount) and the reference markers fixed on the ground the Atlas system is "accurate over large distances and 3D volumes".
The philosophy behind the Atlas Kickstarter is, now that they are happy with how it works, to get the system out to developers as soon as possible to help make amazing experiences and games that work with the system. There is a Unity asset package already available for developers integrate Atlas into games.
Right now you can walk, crouch and crawl and the Atlas system will track you in the VR world but future versions will track fast enough for you to be able to run and jump around.
You can back the project from just $5 and get a "thank you email" but you can get the Atlas app and environment marker templates, enough to make the system work, from as cheaply as $30. The "recommended" package of "Atlas app for iPhone + chest mount + Unity integration assets + 20 markers + marker templates to print your own. Everything you need to walk around inside Virtual Reality, and you don't even have to use your printer," is $100.
So far Atlas has raised about $8,000 of its $125,000 goal with 23 days to go. The estimated delivery date of Atlas project pledge rewards, should the project get enough backing, is January 2014.