The Seamless Walk system ditches wearable hardware in favor of pressure sensors and machine learning technology.
We’ve seen our fair share of unique VR locomotion solutions in the past, from consumer-ready omnidirectional treadmills like the KAT Walk C2 and Omni One to slightly-less practical devices, such as the Taco VR platform.
Then there’s “Seamless-Walk,” an experimental foot-based movement system that removes the need for additional wearables and body-tracking camera technologies in favor of MIT’s “intelligent carpet” design. First spotted by Gizmodo, the system was developed by a research team based out of South Korea’s Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) and can supposedly offer a more comfortable, natural in-headset experience compared to existing solutions while remaining scalable and inexpensive.
Here’s how it works: Intelligent carpet technology tracks the movement of your feet in real-time by measuring foot pressure inputs. This information is then fed into a machine learning model that’s able to estimate the angle of your body as well as your general movement speed and translate the data into realistic virtual movements.
“When we started collaborating with MIT, they introduced an interesting new sensor called the ‘intelligent carpet,’” said Dr. Kyung-Joong Kim, associate professor at GIST and lead researcher on the project. “In our view, it was a great opportunity as well as a challenge for us since it had not been developed for any specific application. Therefore, we wanted to make something practical and interesting with this sensor and our AI technology. Accordingly, we decided to develop a VR game controller with the ‘intelligent carpet’ sensor that would be useful in VR gaming.”
The research team tested the technology with a group of 80 participants who were tasked with navigating a 3D environment. According to them, the Seamless Talking system “outperforms” existing VR locomotion systems. Moving forward, the team plans on expanding the system with additional features catering to multiple use cases, including gaming and healthcare.
“In the future, we plan to add more detailed gait analysis functions to the current system. This would enhance our sensor and gait analysis system to provide fall detection and health monitoring in a comfortable manner without any privacy issues,” added Dr. Kim. “This method could also be used at the gym for monitoring the gait of users on the treadmill or checking their balance during weight training.”
For more information on this unique locomotion system check out the full report here.
Feature Image Credit: Kyung-Joong Kim from GIST