Microsoft patents a virtual reality floor mat that could be paired with an Xbox

Microsoft VR floor mat patent image
Microsoft/United States Patent and Trademark Office

Microsoft has recently filed a patent for a virtual reality floor mat — and the most intriguing aspect is the patent’s suggestion that it could be used with a gaming console like the Xbox.

The patent, which was filed by Microsoft on April 2, 2018 and published last week on Thursday, October 3, is for what the technology company refers to as a “virtual reality floor mat activity region.” While the use of floor mats in virtual reality isn’t a new concept, the Microsoft patent indicates that its floor mat will have more features than just simply providing a way to help VR gamers stay within the safety of their designated play spaces.

Such additional features include the use of fiducial markers, the inclusion of haptic feedback (vibration), the use of interlocking tiles to allow for an adjustable play space, and the addition of pressure sensors. The fiducial markers are intended to help a given VR headset detect the floor mat and then “selectively augment a virtual reality experience based on the positioning of the physical subject identified relative to the activity region.”

The mat may also include a haptic feedback feature that incorporates vibrations: “A haptic notification may be output via a vibration device of an HMD [head-mounted display] or other device carried by the user, or via a vibration device integrated into the virtual reality mat. As previously described, the mat may include one or more integrated vibration devices to generate vibration at the mat that may be perceived by the user to augment the virtual reality experience.”

The patent also included diagrams that indicated that the floor mat (and the play space) could be adjustable with the use of interlocking tiles that can be moved around to fit different configurations. In addition, Microsoft also mentioned the integration of pressure sensors in its floor mat, “in at least some implementations.” The pressure sensors would be intended to “to detect a physical pressure or force applied to an activity surface of the mat” and “enable the virtual reality system to identify where the user is standing in relation to the mat, without necessarily requiring that the user be visually detected by an optical sensor.”

As Gizmodo points out, while Microsoft’s patent does mention a laundry list of computing devices that could be used with the floor mat, the clear standout among the proposed uses is the mat’s possible use in gaming, specifically with Microsoft’s motion sensor Kinect (which was often paired with its Xbox One and 360 gaming consoles). In fact, the first diagram included in the patent (see above) shows a living room setting with a person wearing a VR headset playing in front of a large television or display monitor with what appears to be a device that looks a lot like a Kinect sitting on top. It’s worth mentioning though, that though the patent mentions the use of a “gaming console” it also doesn’t mention the words “Xbox” or “Kinect” either. So we’ll just have to wait and see how this VR floor mat is used, if at all, in gaming.

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