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

The black hole at the center of our galaxy is flaring and no one knows why

At the heart of our galaxy lies a supermassive black hole, Sagittarius A*. Normally this giant monster is relatively docile, but recently it's been a hotbed of unexpected activity, rapidly glowing 75 times brighter than normal.
Movies & TV

The best movies streaming on Hulu right now (August 2019)

From dramas to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Netflix right now (August 2019)

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.
Home Theater

The best 4K TVs under $500

These days, you can land a pretty epic 4K TV for under $500. Still, sorting through the litany of options online can be both time-consuming and overwhelming. Check out our list of the best 4K TVs under $500.
Home Theater

Netflix vs. Hulu vs. Amazon Prime: Battle of the on-demand streaming giants

Trying to figure out which subscription streaming service to use while sticking to a frugal entertainment budget? Check out our updated comparison of the big three: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Hulu.
Emerging Tech

SpaceIL’s crashed lander may have sent thousands of tardigrades to the moon

When the SpaceIL craft Beresheet crashed into the moon earlier this year, it left more than just an impact mark. Thousands of micro-animals called tardigrades were along for the ride and may have survived the crash.
Emerging Tech

Wreckage, reefs, and robots: The high-tech quest to find Amelia Earhart’s plane

Over 80 years ago, American aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart disappeared while trying to fly around the world. Now an autonomous water-based robot could help find some answers. Here's how.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s satellite projects will study the sun using solar sailing

Small satellites can be used for all sorts of purposes, and NASA has been searching for ideas to push ahead the capabilities of the hardware. The agency has announced two new projects to demonstrate the potential of small satellites.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures a beautiful cosmic jellyfish made of glowing gas

A new image from Hubble might look like a deep-space jellyfish, but it's not a sign of extraterrestrial life - in fact, it's a planetary nebula called NGC 2022, located in the constellation of Orion (The Hunter).
Emerging Tech

Parker Solar Probe makes a second orbit of the sun, captures solar wind on video

The Parker Solar Probe, launched last year, has completed its second orbit around the sun. To celebrate, the team responsible for the probe has released a video showing solar winds in action.
Cars

Starman on Tesla Roadster makes first orbit around sun, braces for loneliness

Starman and his Tesla Roadster, sent by SpaceX to outer space last year, have completed their first orbit around the sun. The people on Earth may be able to catch a glimpse of the cherry-red electric vehicle on November 2020.
Emerging Tech

Bernie Sanders calls for a ban on police use of facial recognition

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders is calling for a complete ban on the use of facial recognition by law enforcement as part of the new criminal justice reform plan he introduced this weekend.
Emerging Tech

On the fence about buying solar panels? Tesla now offers them for rent

With solar rental Tesla says “customers get the best from solar power — clean, cheap energy to power homes and vehicles — without upfront costs or decades-long agreements. In fact, customers can get solar power with one click, instead…
Emerging Tech

Autonomous robot deliveries are coming to 100 university campuses in the U.S.

Autonomous robot company Starship Technologies has announced that it will expand its food delivery services to 100 university campuses around the United States over the next 24 months.