Hands-on with the 3DRudder - A simple foot-based VR controller

While walking around the expo hall at GDC, I found an interesting gadget. After spending some time on the Virtuix Omni, I needed a breather. And the 3DRudder provided the perfect opportunity to sit down and take a load off.

The 3DRudder looks a bit like a round balance board. And that's more or less what it is. You set your feet on the disc, and use them to control your movement in a game. Combined with VR, I thought this might be a great way to solve the problem of moving, without having to leave my chair.

I sat down and was told to position the disc somewhere in front of me where my feet could rest comfortably. Then, I strapped on an Oculus Rift and found myself in some sort of tech demo. The demo was fairly unremarkable, but it was designed to be a simple area that you could move around in. It was some sort of outdoor building with a few people inside.

The controls for walking were pretty simple. I'd tilt my feet forward to go forward, and backward to go backward. If I wanted to strafe, I could tilt the board to the right or left. For turns, I needed to only twist my feet to point to the left or right. After a good 10 or 15 seconds of testing it out, I found myself able to quickly maneuver around the landscape rather easily. I could slowly walk around a corner and then sprint away, just by moving my feet accordingly.

After the person helping me saw that I'd mastered the controls, she threw a curve ball at me. She had me press down with the toe of my right foot, while also pressing down with the heel of my left. Just like that, I was floating up in the air. Performing the opposite action brought be back down to the ground. In no time I was soaring around just as well as if I'd been using an Xbox controller.

The really nice thing about the 3DRudder is that it's already supported by a number of games. It's detected as a joystick input, which allows most games to automatically make use of it, with no additional configuration. The price is a bit high when you compare it to other basic controllers, but at $175, I can see it being a valuable addition to your VR space.

I see the 3DRudder being the exact opposite of the Virtuix Omni. Both allow you to use your feet to control your in-game movement, which feels natural. One does so by having you get up and walk or run around. The other allows you to relax in your chair, and still achieve a similar feel.