When we first saw it used in games like Minecraft and Team Fortress 2, the reaction was, more or less, "Cool!" And it is cool, to go running around in Skyrim on the Virtuix Omni. Unfortunately, it's got to be a lot more than cool to get even $2 million in investor money.
This is Saturday's edition of "The Shark Tank," which as a concept—reality show meets venture capital investors—sounds a lot less cool than an omnidirectional treadmill. The panel, which includes Mark Cuban (the Dallas Mavericks of the NBA), Daymond John (FUBU) and others, has some snide things to say about gamers' lifestyles as Robert Herjavec flails around on the Virtuix's low-friction pad.
But they've got a point, and one not a lot of people consider when they're backing ideas that sound really cool on Kickstarter—where Virtuix Omni raised more than a million bucks after asking for $150,000. As a product, it's got some serious challenges, and founder Jan Goetgeluk didn't have answers for how to surmount them.
For starters, the treadmill is $500—and that does not include the Oculus Rift (at $300) which is necessary to play it—nor does it include the gun peripheral, which is another hidden cost.
It's also a large accessory. The more space people have to devote in their homes, the more the target audience shrinks. "It's a subsegment of a subsegment of a market and it's very expensive," says Kevin O'Leary, probably the most set against the idea. Cuban points out that despite its unique offering, this is still a peripheral competing for consumer dollars along with high-end headsets and other gaming accessories.
Focus on that, and think about that when you do back projects on Kickstarter and your expectations of their success. Yeah, this panel doesn't earn a lot of credibility with lowest-common denominator snark about gamers doubling as "plus size models" who couldn't use the Omni for more than 30 minutes. Or when Barbara Corcoran calls the headset the "Ugliest Riff" (an almost intentional-sounding malapropism.) But they do have a point.