A clever brain hack lets you walk in VR forever, without hitting a wall

As the worlds we explore using VR get larger, one potentially limiting factor is the question of how to best simulate wide open spaces in virtual reality if the real world locations users are present in don’t provide adequate room. After all, it’s a relaxing thought to consider that we might put on our HTC Vive headset after work and take a stroll down a long stretch of deserted beach — but a bit impractical if we happen to live in a small apartment.

A group of researchers think they may be on to a solution, however, and they showed it off at last week’s SIGGRAPH conference. Developed by researchers at the Tokyo and Unity Technologies Japan, the project calls for a new type of “Visuo-Haptic” VR experience, which reportedly creates the illusion of an infinite virtual corridor in a “play space” measuring just 16 feet by 22 feet.

Called “redirected walking,” the technology basically tricks the subject’s brain into thinking that he or she is walking in a straight line when, in fact, the subject is walking on a slight curve. Extrapolate that slight curve into a full circle and it essentially creates a limitless play space in which someone could walk forever without hitting a wall — or realizing they’re walking in circles.

“This work uses the ‘Visuo-haptic redirected walking’ [concept], which is a novel efficient redirected working technique by utilizing haptic cues for strongly modifying our spatial perception,” Takuji Narumi, one of the researchers on the project, tells Digital Trends. “Since the combination of visual and haptic sensations strongly alters our spatial perception in agreement with visual representation, the system effectively reduces the required space for infinite walking.”

Screen Shot 2016-08-01 at 21.10.47

Narumi says that the researchers are already speaking with several companies about the technology, and that he could see it working well in a “theme park or amusement attraction” setting. While the technology currently requires users to touch a wall to guide themselves and enhance the effect, he also hopes that long term this can be done away with.

“We can demonstrate haptic cues enhances the effect of the redirected walking technique,” he says. “[But] for actual usage, using the static wall is a limitation of our method. We would like to investigate the effect of ‘active’ haptic cues provided by some kind of haptic interfaces. By doing so, we may eliminate walls from the proposed method by presenting haptic sensations with haptic interfaces, and extend applicability of our method.”

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Your PlayStation 4 game library isn't complete without these games

Looking for the best PS4 games out there? Out of the massive crop of titles available, we selected the best you should buy. No matter what your genre of choice may be, there's something here for you.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in December, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to 'Roma'

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Virtual Reality

Getting into VR is spendy. Which headset is truly worth your hard-earned cash?

Virtual reality has finally gone mainstream, but how do you find the best VR headset for you? Check out a few of our favorites, whether you want the best of the best or a budget alternative for your mobile device.
Emerging Tech

Descending at an angle could be key to landing heavier craft on Mars

Landing on Mars is a challenge: The heavier the craft, the more difficult a safe landing becomes. Scientists propose using retropropulsion engines and angling the craft to create a pressure differential to land heavier crafts in the future.
Emerging Tech

Ant-inspired walking robot navigates without GPS by using polarized light

What do you get if you cross Boston Dynamics and Ant-Man? You get Antbot, a robot from the French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) which uses ant-like navigation to move around without the aid of GPS.
Emerging Tech

InSight’s heat probe will dig 16 feet beneath the surface of Mars

New images from NASA's InSight mission to Mars have confirmed that the lander succeeded in setting the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package instrument onto the surface, from where a self-hammering spike will burrow downwards.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.