Almost every time we've played around in virtual reality, be it of the Oculus Rift or Gear VR variety, we've had a game controller of some sort in our hands. It's necessary to navigate an environment, pop around and generally have a look about. The folks behind 3DRudder want to take that paddle and put it under your feet. At its simplest, the 3DRudder is an unobtrusive circular platform that replaces a D-pad on the controller. It's about 12 inches across and has a halved sphere underneath. Gyroscopes and accelerometers tucked inside track your movements via the pitch and yaw of your tootsies, and it connects to your computer via USB. According to the developers, the primary use they have in mind is for navigating 3D modeling programs like ZBrush or Maya, freeing your hands to switch brushes or change a tool while using feet to get around the scene you're making.
My demo started a bit slowly, focused on simple up, down, left and right movement. Then came the ability to spin and zoom in and out. Having each bit of navigation cordoned off felt pretty stilted, but once the leash came off and I had everything at my disposal, getting around the rough mock-up scene with walls, statues and other obstacles felt totally natural. Of course, it took me a few minutes to stop exaggerating the motions I made by tilting too hard one way or the other, but that faded away in short order as well.
But back to virtual reality. There wasn't a headset on display to use in tandem because, as founder and president Valerio Bonora tells it, there'd be too much to comprehend at once. Honestly, though, after 20 minutes of getting my feet wet (sorry), I was ready to strap on a headset and see just how well the device would work in practice. No dice. The developers also say that 3DRudder could replace an input for a first person shooter, but that's a lofty goal and it feels like it'd be more gimmicky than actually useful in practice. Even outside of competition, precision aiming and movement is key. Regardless, the gizmo is apparently compatible with existing titles.
Perhaps best of all? It won't be long before you can try the gadget for yourself and it won't break the bank, either. We're told that the device will launch this May for $110.