Researchers from the University of Tsukuba
and ATR Media Information Research Labs in Japan have constructed a moving
floor that allows the user to stay in place while walking in a virtual
The device makes it possible to literally move through a virtual
environment, and could be used to simulate operations like disaster evacuations,
according to the researchers.
The device, dubbed CirculaFloor, consists of movable sections
of floor equipped with ultra-sound sensors that keep track of the floor
section positions, and magnetic sensors that keep track of the motion
of a user's feet. The floor moves in the opposite direction from the user
so that the motion of each step is canceled and the user's position remains
fixed in the real world.
The floor sections move in all directions, making it possible
for the user to freely change direction while walking.
The floor provides a relatively natural means of locomotion for
virtual reality systems because the sense of distance and orientation
while walking is much better than while riding in a vehicle, according
to the researchers.
The researchers' prototype covers flat surfaces. They are working
on a mechanism that will allow the user to traverse uneven terrain.
Practical applications could be possible within five years, according
to the researchers. The work is scheduled to be presented at the Association
of Computing Machinery (ACM) Siggraph 2004 conference in Los Angeles,
August 8 to 12.
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