Robotic Steps Let You Walk Forward Endlessly Without Getting Anywhere

A metaphor for life, I guess. Jeremy Hsu writes in Popular Science that Hiroo Iwata of the University of Tsukuba in Japan has developed robotic tiles that sense what direction a user is going in and move ahead to provide a place to step. With further development, it could be used in virtual reality simulators in order to imitate movement over distance:

The robot tiles emerged as the brainchild of Hiroo Iwata, a virtual reality researcher at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. A touch-sensitive conductive fabric covers each robot and gauges the pressure applied by a walking person's foot, which goes toward predicting the next step.

Ultrasonic sensors also help relay position and orientation of each tile back to a central computer that acts as the conductor. It's an oddly serene robotic ballet, even when two tiles have queued up to move down the line.

Video at the link.


Image: DigInfo Video News

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Every start in new technology is cumbersome, big and slow.

But if this idea really takes off I see a future where these blocks get so fast that you'll be able to run and jump on them without falling off. And then the first true outlines of the holo-deck become visible.

Coming years we'll see these blocks getting faster and faster. And they'll also get smaller and smaller upto a point where in the end after some decades of development you'll see a kind of nano-blocks that make kind of a semi-"fluid" surface that can accomodate multiple users on the same surface.

Combine this technology with virtual-touch-suits, VR-headsets and Wii-tech and you get a whole new sensation with those games and training-equipments that are out there...
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