Microsoft’s ‘DreamWalker’ Turns Everyday Commutes Into VR Walking Experiences

VR environments based on actual routes to real-world destinations. 

Earlier this week during the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software & Technology in New Orleans, Microsoft unveiled a prototype system that uses a combination of VR, GPS-based inside-out tracking, and pre-authored digital worlds to create dynamic VR experiences layered over actual walking routes located throughout the real-world.

“To keep the user from colliding with objects and people in the real-world, DreamWalker’s tracking system fuses GPS locations, inside-out tracking, and RGBD frames to 1) continuously and accurately position the user in the real world, 2) sense walkable paths and obstacles in real time, and 3) represent paths through a dynamically changing scene in VR to redirect the user towards the chosen destination,” states Microsoft Researchers in a paper detailing the specifics behind the prototype technology.

Included in the system is a Samsung Odyssey Windows Mixed Reality VR headsets and controllers, two Intel Realsense depth cameras, a Xiamomi Mi 8 GPS, an HP Omen PC backpack, as well as additional batteries.

Image Credit: Microsoft Research

Put simply, DreamWalker uses its GPS capabilities to scan potential routes to specific real-world destinations and then uses that information to search for pre-existing VR environments with similar walking paths. Meanwhile, the systems inside-out tracking technology monitors any physical obstructions, allowing users to navigate large real-world environments without fear of walking into any objects or people.

In order to properly test the technology, Microsoft had several participants take a brief VR walking tour across their Research campus in Redmond, Washington. 

Image Credit: Microsoft Research

“We demonstrate DreamWalker’s versatility by enabling users to walk three paths across the large Microsoft campus while enjoying pre-authored VR worlds, supplemented with a variety of obstacle avoidance and redirection techniques,” adds researchers. “In our evaluation, 8 participants walked across campus along a 15-minute route, experiencing a virtual Manhattan that was full of animated cars, people, and other objects.”

Obviously, the potential behind technology such as this is painfully apparent. The ability to generate complex VR environments leading to real-world destinations could have an immense impact on numerous aspects of our daily lives. Imagine turning a boring work commute into an otherworldly trip across a strange alien planet, or late-night dog walks into engaging gaming experiences.

For more information on DreamWalker be sure to check out the full paper, DreamWalker: Substituting Real-World Walking Experiences with a Virtual Reality, written by Microsoft Research’s Jackie (Junrui) Yang, Christian Holz, Eyal Ofek, and Andrew D. Wilson.

Feature Image Credit: Microsoft Research

About the Scout

Former Writer (Kyle Melnick)

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