Could an “Intelligent Carpet” Be the Future of Walking in VR Games?

Locomotion in VR has always been a challenge, trying to create a system where everyone feels comfortable. That has spawned innovative software and hardware solutions such as omnidirectional treadmills. Researchers at the Gwangju Institute of Science and Technology (GIST) in Korea in collaboration with MIT CSAIL have announced the development of another option, an “intelligent carpet”.

The MIT and GIST researchers have created a foot-based VR locomotion system called “Seamless-walk” (first spotted by Mixed News). Utilising a high-resolution “intelligent carpet” touch sensor, the aim was to create a natural and comfortable experience for applications in VR gaming and healthcare.

Intelligent Carpet - Infographic

Seamlessly walk in VR

The project has been led by Dr. Kyung -Joong Kim, Associate Professor at GIST. “When we started collaborating with MIT, they introduced an interesting new sensor called the ‘intelligent carpet,’” explains Dr. Kim in a statement. “Accordingly, we decided to develop a VR game controller with the ‘intelligent carpet’ sensor that would be useful in VR gaming.

“In the long run, we believe that our technology could be used in healthcare. ‘Seamless-walk’ is not only a VR gamepad but also a gait recognition and analysis method,” Dr.Kim adds.

Currently, for home users, you either need a decent play area or pay for an omnidirectional treadmill. These can be expensive, cumbersome and have a high learning curve as the platform is usually curved. Plus they required special shoes.

Seamless-walk could remove many of those issues. The “intelligent carpet” touch sensor captures foot pressure imprints in real time. That information is then passed through a machine learning model that extracts the pressure points using a technique called “K-means clustering.”

The researchers explain that: “the pressure points are divided into two clusters, corresponding to the user’s left and right feet. From these clusters, the user’s body direction and foot intervals are then extracted to estimate the angle and movement speed.”

Seamless-walk also benefits from being modular. Meaning that it is easily scalable and inexpensive to install. To date, 80 volunteers have tested Seamless-walk in an exploration game, finding the system to be immersive, natural and comfortable.

This is only a research project at the end of the day, and a long way off from any commercialisation. But if it was on sale, would you buy the Seamless-walk? Might be useful when playing these best VR shooters. Let us know in the comments below.