Disney has developed a sliding floor that allows movement in all directions with multiple users at the same time, for VR and other use cases.
Disney engineer and inventor Lanny Smoot unveiled a new project from Disney’s R&D department in a YouTube video. The company describes HoloTile as “the world’s first multi-person, omnidirectional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor”.
HoloTile allows users to walk in any direction, without moving from the spot or colliding with the real world.
“It will automatically do whatever it needs to have me stay on the floor. And what’s amazing about this is: Multiple people can be on it and all walking independently. They can walk in virtual reality and so many other things,” Smoot says.
The video shows Smoot walking through a virtual environment using a Quest Pro headset. What Smoot sees is projected onto a screen in the background. Disney didn’t reveal any details about how the technology works.
Smoot says about the potential use cases:
“Imagine a number of people being in a room being able to be somewhere else collaboratively and moving around doing sightseeing. Imagine theatrical stages that might have these embedded in them so that dancers can do amazing moves. […] There are so many applications for this type of technology. And we don’t know yet where it will be used.”
Locomotion is still an unsolved problem in virtual reality. If you move physically, you will eventually hit an obstacle, and if you move artificially, you might run into the risk of getting sick.
Disney’s invention is likely to be technically complex and not a practical solution for consumers, but it shows an interesting new implementation of the technology. The HoloTile supports multiple users and looks quite sleek, if noisy. The question, of course, is what is going on under the floor and whether sensors and cameras are being used for motion tracking.