Austrian researchers have created a device that enables users moving in the virtual reality environment without bumping into real-world walls and getting nauseous.
Strapping the virtual traveller into a support frame with a belt, the researchers let the user glide across a low friction surface. Sensors are detecting the motion of the subject's feet and the rotation of the body and feeding the information into a computer.
The device, named the Virtualizer, created by Vienna University engineers is believed to enter commercial market in 2014 and is expected to enrich the virtual experience of researchers and gamers. Its biggest advantage over the existing technology is that it addresses the discrepancy between visual perception and actual physical motion, which frequently results in people getting sick.
“Many people become nauseous in such situations. This is called ‘cybersickness’”, said Tuncay Cakmak a Vienna University student who initiated the project.
The Austrian engineers believe the Virtualizer makes the feeling of presence in the virtual reality world stronger. It also helps the user better assess distances and proportions and has an element of physical exercise.
The previously available head-mounted gadgets were able to deliver high quality visual experience, however, these device haven’t addressed the motion aspect. Some teams have tried to build conveyor-belt based solutions but they have never really met the expectations.
The Austrian engineers believe their idea, allowing feet sliding across the smooth low-friction surface, is as close to natural walking movements as possible.
“Coming to terms with the low friction takes a little bit of practice,” Cakmak said, “but soon one can run across the smooth sensor plate quite naturally.”
The Virtualizer is usually used together with standard 3D headgear, which picks up the users viewing direction and displays 3D pictures accordingly. This is independent from the leg motion, therefore running into one direction and looking into another becomes possible.
The team is now tuning the device, looking for commercial paertners to help them launch it to the market.
“Some major companies have already expressed their interest – for us, however, it is important that the technological development remains in our hands,” Cakmak concluded.