Recently I was lucky enough to review the Kat VR C2+ omnidirectional treadmill. It's a large piece of virtual reality paraphernalia that allows you to step onto a slippery base in purpose-made shoes, strap into a harness, and walk freely in VR. It's a unique experience, even for a VR veteran, so I wanted to get a few more opinions on the device beyond my own.
To this end, I forced a few friends, and some strangers I found on Twitter (yes, really), to come into my house and try out the Kat VR treadmill for at least 15 minutes each.
I found the Kat VR fairly intuitive to use, but given VR is already a highly personal experience, I knew this could vary. Plus there's differing skill levels, body types, and countless other individualities that could change this. Even so, the general consensus seemed to be that it's fairly easy to learn, especially once you're in game. You have to trust the Kat VR, at least as much as a stranger, but once I'd convinced people to relax and lean while walking everyone seemed to get it.
If anything, the uncomfortable shoes got far more ire than the treadmill.
Despite the initial hurdle of getting people strapped in and going, most preferred using the treadmill to their regular VR experiences. Several that suffer from motion sickness noted that actually moving in the space basically nullified that for their trials. I was often reminding people to take breaks, which just goes to show how deep into VR you can get strapped into this thing.
When it came to physical limitations, this obviously varied. Everyone who tried the Kat VR was for the most part able bodied but we had different fitness levels, body shapes, and health conditions. Several with back injuries who were concerned noted that it was actually comfortable and potentially even helpful for allowing them to exercise. All agreed that while physically a bit of a workout and with some limitations, it's a lot less intimidating than it looks.
Guinea pig #1
- Name: Cin
- Age: 38.9
- VR experience: Played some VR games such as Space Pirates (~2015/16) and Beat Saber (2022), but always suffered from terrible VR sickness so never delved much deeper.
Thoughts: Learning to walk in the Kat VR was easier once in-game. Practising beforehand felt a little awkward and not very intuitive, but once in-game (and with the speed correctly tuned) it was pretty straightforward. The reasonable accuracy of the sensors and the inclusion of ways to walk large distances without continuously taking steps was nice. The greater physical connection with what I was seeing seemed to delay the onset of the VR sickness symptoms I am so used to feeling almost immediately after putting the headset on.
The smoothness of the harness system meant it restricted movement very little, and I did not feel like my back injury was at all impacted by it as it puts very little strain on the lower back. There was definitely some muscle soreness the next day though, and the foot soreness from the unfamiliar shoes came on pretty fast after a 40ish minute session. I can’t see myself owning one but I would like to try more games (only tried Half-Life: Alyx this time) and see how I go with my glasses on inside the headset.
A very cool thing to get to try!
Guinea pig #2
- Name: Aaron
- Age: 41
- VR experience: Owns a VR headset, has played with it from early on (Oculus DK1 and DK2), and still plays VR games semi-regularly.
Thoughts: The Kat VR has a lot of potential, but also comes with some barriers to entry. Once it's set up, using it feels good. It's definitely the sort of device that needs to be used in-game to properly get a feel for and understand how it works. The added immersion is great and anyone looking to use VR as an exercise complement will definitely get an increased workout when using it.
I found using it more or less in line with what I expected when looking at it, though much more fun in game, especially once you get used to it and start to 'forget' that it's there. The main factor on usage time for me often came down to my own fitness, although there were times when a glitch in-game would cause discomfort and I'd need a break, through no fault of the Kat VR itself. I liked the different grip levels on the shoes, both for use in-game and to make getting on and off easier.
Walking in game still isn't directly the same as walking IRL, but I definitely understood how to use it very quickly and as someone familiar with games and gaming, I quickly associated this as simply a game mechanic. There's a good amount of freedom in how you approach this, from walking on the spot to going full-lean forward.
Guinea pig #3
- Name: Jamie
- Age: 46
- VR experience: Bought a HTC Vive not long after launch and has played 100s of hours of VR games.
Thoughts: Where was this when VR came out! I know, that damned chicken/egg problem, but really this treadmill is amazing. I absolutely fell in love with VR gaming when it first came out and have thoroughly enjoyed many games, but any game where the character POV moves while you are not physically moving has made me feel slightly nauseous, and this treadmill absolutely solves that problem.
It took a little while to trust that I could actually walk freely while using it, but once that issue was overcome it really made the VR experience so much better. It’s light years ahead of "point controller where you want to go then teleport" option, and would be incredible to experience more meaty games like Half Life: Alyx or Arizona Sunshine with!
If this is the future of VR gaming, it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun!
Guinea pig #3
- Name: Hugh
- Age: 43
- VR experience: Played with VR around 10-15 times over the years, and has watched VR progress.
Thoughts: Found this really effective. I wasn’t sure how natural it would feel, but it took me only about five minutes to feel comfortable and then it very quickly felt immersive!
I also do have lower back issues and so was a bit concerned about how I’d go there, but the movement felt stable and my back felt looser, similar to exercise, so I would even consider using this in winter as exercise too. Overall, loved it, and would definitely recommend it to anyone interested.
Guinea pig #4
- Name: Isabella
- Age: 19
- VR experience: Never owned a VR headset but has some experience playing miscellaneous games through the years.
Thoughts: Getting onto the platform felt like Bambi on ice in a way. I was a little unsteady but once my body adjusted into the harness I felt secure. Getting used to trusting the harness and how to move around on the spot was easier when in-game but still a weird sensation. I'm not used to trying to walk on something with game play that is moving with you. Thankfully it took only a few minutes to adjust my thinking and movement, and I was freely trialling what you can and can't do, landing on what feels just right.
Overall the Kat VR is quite comfortable, easy to adjust to and you barely feel the harness. I could have played for a good few hours given the chance. I think the only barrier would be the physical workout that comes with it.
Guinea pig #5
- Name: Michael
- Age: 39
- VR experience: Doesn't own VR, however, has experience with using Oculus DK1 and HTC Vive at VR gaming businesses.
Thoughts: I often get motion sickness in VR so I was a little hesitant at first while using the Kat VR. Once I started to fumble my way through moving while in a game it clicked pretty quickly for me as to how locomotion is translated via the sensors and how you move.
Once I got comfortable with movement, I started to experiment with starting to run and play around with how quickly the support you’re tethered to moves. It was surprisingly smooth.
I personally couldn't crouch or kneel down while using it, and trying felt very awkward. Also if you’re a bit taller like me (183cm) the height of the platform had me dangerously close to the ceiling with the controllers in my hands, so if you’re a tall human this may limit your vertical movement. I’m rather out of shape and don’t exactly have great cardiovascular abilities, however, while using the Kat VR I had a great time and absolutely had a workout and loved it.
Guinea pig #5
- Name: Pip
- Age: 24
- VR experience: Dad had a HTC Vive when they were a teenager and enjoyed it very casually.
Thoughts: For die hard VR fans this is very much a good investment. Once you trust the treadmill to hold you it's a lot of fun to go running up to enemies and explore worlds without the challenge of motion sickness.
The shoes I found uncomfortable but they functioned very well. For the average person, it is too big and bulky to have. It takes up a lot of space! But at the same time you are confined to that space so less likely to wack your hand on furniture.
Guinea pig #6
- Name: Ben
- Age: 35
- VR Experience: Has owned PSVR since it was released. Owns many VR games with lots of hours of gameplay.
Thoughts: I watched a hand full of videos before experiencing the Kat VR and was very sceptical on how well it would really work. It looked like a bit of a pain to get the initial setup working, but once up and in myself I never had any issues.
Trying to move around once in the Kat VR was very easy. I had no issue with using it and picked it up pretty quickly. The device itself is a large setup but considering you're strapped in it gives you more space and feels a bit safer. You can assure there won’t be anyone running through a window or smashing your TV while using it.
After having a go of the Kat VR I feel every big gamer will own one of these, the future of gaming is finally here. Last thoughts; if anyone is serious about purchasing the unit, please test drive before purchase, it’s a lot more fun than what it looks like in any video.