Getting Virtual Reality from Labs to Living Rooms
Many years ago a science center opened near where I live, and one of its first travelling exhibits was a virtual reality experience. I can still remember putting the goggles on, taking the controller in my hand, and piloting a hang glider in the low-polygon-count world (to a successful landing, I might add). I can also remember trying to walk forward to move in the world, which did not work. Thanks to the work of some researchers at the Vienna University of Technology, that may change soon.
Right now it is possible to purchase a 3D VR headset and look around some game worlds with it, but movement within the world still requires traditional controllers, or expensive motion-capture equipment. The Vienna researchers though had an idea for a new approach to let people walk through their favorite game worlds. Instead of tracking someone moving about an open space, like a motion capture system, this approach holds the subject in place using a belt. Under their feet though is a low-friction surface, allowing them to walk and run as they normally would. Sensors pick up those movements and translate them to the game. As the sensors and the VR goggles are separate systems, this allows one to walk in one direction, while looking in another.
Dubbed the Virtualizer, major companies are already interested in the technology, but the researchers have decided they want to keep the development in their hands. The Virtualizer is scheduled to enter the market as soon as next year though, but there is no pricing information yet.
Source: Vienna University of Technology