WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
One of the biggest problems with VR is that if you want to walk from A to Z you soon hit the walls of your living room, but now you can walk forever without ever leaving your room.
Virtual Reality (VR) is great – provided that is you’re happy lying, sitting, or standing in one place. And while the development of new haptic VR jackets and full body suits mean you can now also feel and interact with everything in your VR world as well as see it, from the buildings and plants, to the punches and kicks, Steppingstone VR thinks its new approach to helping people move around naturally in VR, in the same way they would in the real world by, for example walking or running around, is a winner.
The company has been working on a motion platform that uses electromagnetic propulsion to physically move players around as they stand or sit on a platform. You can see it in the early prototype video below, the platform gets its power supply from a specialized floor, a little like bumper cars, allowing it to quickly adapt and move in response to the player’s input in VR. The sensations of physically moving that the player feels should help to combat sickness in games with smooth locomotion such as Skyrim VR.
But this is just the first step for the company, and CEO Samy Bensmida says the consumer version of its product “aims to include multiple moving platforms that users will be able to step onto.”
That, in my eyes at least could be much more interesting and useful. The Tiles, as Bensmida calles them, will move backward as you step onto them, in theory allowing you to physically walk around a massive game world, like Minecraft, without ever leaving the center of a space.
You can see a concept in the video below, though Bensmida explains that this early system uses wheels, whereas future versions will use electromagnetic propulsion that will give the platform and the user much more autonomy.
“You will walk all day long in Skyrim with your legs, no harness, and get all the congruent inertial cues that go along with it,” says Bensmida.
And, yes, as expensive as it looks, Bensmida says the product is “100% consumer” with the aim of streamlining it to be viable for homes. Based on the prototype though there’s obviously a lot of work to be done to get Steppingstone anywhere near something we’d consider making space for at home or in the office, and many people would likely still be concerned about the safety of walking or running around virtual worlds when essentially blindfolded in VR.
Still, Bensmida seems confident the team will pull it off, and is preparing a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to help it get there. So, if he can pull it off can you see yourself putting down electromagnetic flooring instead of carpet in your home or office if it meant complete and utter VR immersion? If not today then who knows, maybe in the future…