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New Walt Disney Holotiles let crowds walk around in VR while at home


VR still suffers from the fact that you can’t truly walk or run around in virtual worlds, but that will change in time …


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Years ago I wrote about, and showed off, some of the first moving floor concepts and boots that would let people walk and run around in Virtual Reality (VR) environments while staying stationary in their lounges at home, in something that’s akin to running on the spot but in this case not because you’d actually be running in VR – which sounds confusing. Anyway, fast forward about four years and now Walt Disney Imagineering has unveiled the ‘HoloTile’ floor for “omnidirectional VR experiences,” created by Disney Research fellow Lanny Smoot.


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The new technology was revealed as Smoot, a member of Walt Disney Imagineering’s research and development (R&D) division, is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.


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Smoot is the first Disney Imagineer to receive this recognition and only the second person from the Walt Disney Company to be inducted. The first was Walt Disney, who was honoured posthumously in 2000 for the multiplane camera.

In a press release, Disney said the HoloTile floor is “the world’s first multi-person, omnidirectional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor.” And I want one … it looks like it beats a bog standard treadmill any day!


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It allows any number of people to enjoy a shared VR experience, walk an unlimited distance in any direction, and never collide or walk off its surface. Additionally, the HoloTile floor can be an insert in a theatrical stage. This would allow performers to move and dance in new ways, or stage props and structures to move around or seemingly set themselves up.


Watch the new Holotiles in action


In a new Disney Parks video, Smoot explains: “It will automatically do whatever it needs to have me stay on the floor. 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.”

He adds, “There’s so many applications for this type of technology.”


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Smoot is credited with giving Madame Leota her ability to float in Disneyland‘s Haunted Mansion attraction and creating the extendable light saber used by Disney Live Entertainment.

“At Disney Experiences, we’re committed to world-class storytelling, creativity, and innovation in everything we do, and Lanny Smoot embodies every one of those ideals,” said Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Experiences.

“As Disney’s most prolific inventor, Lanny continues to amaze all of us with his artistic ingenuity, technical expertise, and endless imagination.”

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