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A moving floor to play VR games

Image credit: Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko from Pexels

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni May 28, 2021
One of the current limitations in using virtual reality is the restriction to move around. To overcome that, I propose a pad on the floor that will enable movements in all directions.

The user will stand on the pad and wear special shoes or socks that have sensors. The floor pad will act like the treadmill floor but instead of moving in just one direction like the treadmill, it will move in whichever direction the user moves in. It would simulate the movement of walking on a giant ball. The ball rotates in the opposite direction the person standing on the ball moves in. Instead of a giant ball, the pad will have a circular plate covered with a conveyor belt-like material. The belt will sense the movement of the feet and move in anticipation to simulate walking/ running, etc. I imagine the pad to be about 10 to 15 cm tall. The side of the floor can be variable. For kids, the floor can be 3 feet by 3 feet. For adults, it can be 5 ft by 5 ft.

Although I imagined it as a feature to improve the VR experience, it can be used to perform exercises in a confined space like a treadmill. Instead of movement in a single direction like on a treadmill, you can move in all directions and still be confined to a smaller space.
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Creative contributions

Soft-material treadmill surface

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J
Juran May 28, 2021
We could use sensory gel pads for the treadmill surface. Why?
  • running/moving on the softer surface put less stress on the joints
  • softer treadmill pads could increase the precision of movements and enhance the overall gaming experience
  • it can change its stiffness and more realistically mimic the surface you are moving on
  • it could be heated or cooled according to the current gaming ambient
  • it can detect body movement irregularities, dynamically change according to the user habits and improve overall body health
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni24 days ago
I like the point of it improving the gaming experience by altering its stiffness and temperature the most.

Floorless solutions

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J
Juran May 28, 2021
Since I saw the omni-directional treadmill and the VR backpacks , I am crazy about it. The only thing that holds me back is the price. They are ridiculously expensive and therefore, I love the idea of this session. I had a couple of ideas that could make the technology and the experience more affordable.

Going aerial
The idea is to retain a small volume of the gaming platform, but make it without moving surface. Why? They are loud (especially while running or jumping), become dirty, and are prone to blockages/malfunctions due to dirt entering the sensitive mechanism.
Several ideas I would base this platform on would be:
  • hanging VR experience (hanging 20 cm above the ground, tied to a platform via mountain-climbing-belt-like VR add-on, with sensory shoes and gloves)
Muscular traction-guided movement
For the same reasons mentioned in "going aerial" part, the idea would be to make the gaming more sedimental. Many hardcore gamers, who play all days long, would adapt to this type of VR experience much easier than to the running treadmill version.
  • rubber-based matrix/mold where you would insert your feet. It would sense your muscle attractionsnd move you in desired direction. Jumps and crounches would be done in manually by the controller.

[1]https://www.vrfitnessinsider.com/pros-cons-finding-right-vr-movement-system/

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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni24 days ago
I agree with this. When I thought of improving the VR experience, the first thing that came to mind was this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HzLDVQpT-E technology from the movie Assassin's creed. Injecting and tapping and modulating the nerve signals is a bit too much. It can be replaced by a VR headset or goggles. However, the arm that holds the person and moves according to the video fed to the user is something extraordinary. That may be shit costly and may not be realized in the near future. So, from there I came down to the VR floor model.
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Povilas S
Povilas Sa month ago
Juran Shubhankar Kulkarni So basically the idea is already realized, the product is out there. Just the surface area of that omni-directional treadmill in the link that Juran gave is very small and also the user is held by a supporting frame, so it would be cool if the area was much bigger, as Shubhankar Kulkarni suggested and there were no supporting elements for the body, a person could move freely. But I think that's where the main complication is - it's hard to maintain balance while in VR, sometimes it could be difficult even standing on a normal surface, if the VR setting involves movement, like riding in a car, etc., so if additionally, you are on a treadmill it could be almost impossible not to fall even though the treadmill tries to balance out your movements.

It would be really cool if the person could move around in an ordinary environment, without the specialized floor pad. Maybe special shoes or the whole suit could be developed for that purpose.

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Jurana month ago
Povilas S I agree with you. In the last paragraph, you actually proposed the thing which I mentioned in a link in the "Floreless solutions" contribution - VR backpack.
It's basically a backpack computer that you carry around (e.g. in the park). You also wear VR googles and play the game, but you move freely.
Physical problems are that it's heavy, not resistant to sweat, and expensive.
The gaming problem is that it requires a lot of free space. One thing how you could overcome this is to make your one step in reality count as several steps in the game. The other solution could be to have the gaming halls or custom-marked area surrounded by a commercial gaming fence that signals when you are close, but then you just can't go further in that direction in the game (?!). There is also an option where an in-game shift in orientation would happen when you reach a fence and you would continue running straight even though you changed your direction of movement in reality (but that just messes things up even more).

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General comments

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J
Jurana month ago
I surfed a bit and found an ongoing project which matches your idea (https://omnipad.com/). It's not available, yet, and I couldn't find why or when will it be.
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Shubhankar Kulkarni
Shubhankar Kulkarni24 days ago
Juran Awesome! There is little information on the website though. I didn't imagine it needed the support ring as shown in the OmniPad if the treadmill movements were perfect. Also, when you wear the VR headset, you will not see the support ring and may end up bruising your hand or your leg by hitting it accidentally. The support ring may be needed initially though, to help you get accustomed to moving on such a treadmill.

I am not an expert in designing such a treadmill but the base of the OmniPad seems too tall. It may be so to accommodate the machinery needed to move the treadmill. Anyways, it's a great find and I will be waiting or them to display more information.