Virtual reality (VR) is inching closer to becoming a mainstream technology. Thanks to low-cost headsets like the Oculus Quest, more consumers are able to access VR than ever before. However, the performance of many VR games and apps can still feel clunky and awkward.
In order for consumers to spend money on VR products, and thus help the industry grow, games need to become more immersive. One way to do so is by creating accessories that provide tactile and auditory feedback to accompany the visual experience created by a VR headset.
Although DropLabs’ latest shoes aren’t specifically designed for VR use, they highlight what a top-notch accessory could look like. The startup is rolling out a pair of shoes that have speakers embedded in their soles, making every beat feel more immersive. In the VR space, it opens a world of possibilities.
It’s worth noting that DropLabs isn’t marketing its EP-01 sneakers as a VR accessory. The shoes cost $300 and are meant to be worn in everyday life. The startup says its shoes deliver a bass boost that amplifies whatever music you’re listening to as you go about your day.
They offer six hours of battery life and connect wirelessly to a dedicated smartphone app that’s used to adjust the intensity of the bass. The EP-01 sneakers have an undeniably Yeezy-like style that does a great job of hiding the fact that there are speakers embedded in the soles. Interestingly, DropLabs also offers a “low-latency gaming package.”
The latter includes a cable that can be connected to any device with a 3.5mm audio jack—including VR headsets. Unfortunately, it’s pretty short and can restrict your movement. This makes the shoes useful for stationary, sitting VR gaming but not when you need to be up and moving.
Of course, that’s when VR is at its best. Although DropLabs’ shoes aren’t the perfect solution for more immersive VR gaming, they offer a glimpse of what the future could look like.
Adapting the Tech
Imagine running on an omnidirectional VR treadmill and feeling the pounding of your feet hitting the ground with each step. Picture the rumbling of an explosion traveling up your legs into your body after throwing a virtual grenade.
The technologies needed to support that sort of experience are already in their early stages. Between DropLabs’ speaker shoes and the Virtuix Omni One treadmill, VR is on the brink of evolving into something from the world of “Ready Player One.”
Most people underestimate how important sound is when it comes to making things immersive. It doesn’t matter how good a movie looks if the sound coming out of the speakers is tinny and flat.
The same goes for VR.
Graphically, much of the hardware needed to support lifelike VR experiences already exists. Pairing those visuals with tactile audio has the potential to drastically improve any VR experience.
Perhaps DropLabs’ latest shoes will serve as an inspiration for future models designed specifically for VR. The timing couldn’t be more perfect for a company that wants to dive in to the VR space.