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Input Devices Hardware

Ready for a CyberWalk? 69

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the holodeck-tech dept.
Roland Piquepaille writes "Even with recent improvements in virtual reality technology, it's still almost impossible to physically walk through virtual environments. Now, European researchers have started a project named CyberWalk and they'll demonstrate next week their omni-directional treadmill, named CyberCarpet. According to ICT Results, the researchers 'had to address five key issues: providing a surface to walk on, controlling the surface in a way that minimized forces on the user, developing a non-intrusive tracking system, displaying a high-quality visualization, and ensuring a natural human perception of the virtual environment.' The researchers think that their new virtual environments would be used by architects and the gaming industry." Additional details are also available via the project website.
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Ready for a CyberWalk?

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    and then he'll never need to go outside. He'll get some good exercise too if I can simulate some cats running away.
  • Yay, now we finally have the final key to making a holodeck! Oh wait, we need holographic projects too, darn! *puts down his actual +2 claymore* Actually I'm pretty sure there's no way for this to convince someone it's real. You know that the ground is moving under you when you take a step so you'll always know you're not really going anywhere. Plus, people can sense acceleration. If this thing was to work at a full run plus jumping and quick corners like virtual basketball or something, it would simp
    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:52PM (#23041642) Journal
      Actually I'm pretty sure there's no way for this to convince someone it's real. You know that the ground is moving under you when you take a step so you'll always know you're not really going anywhere. Plus, people can sense acceleration.

      Which is mostly done in the inner ear: Three "rate gyros" per ear (the semicircular canals) plus three linear accelleration sensors ditto (nerve cells with calcified masses on the ends).

      But it turns out these can be fooled by elecrtostimulus from varying magnetic fields generated by coils mounted on a headpiece near them.

      There has been at least one slashdot article on these - including adding them to a headpiece to mimic the head acceleration that would match a moving screen image to reduce "barfogenisis" and improve simulation game experience. Adding them to a 3-D VR simulation would be the next logical step.

      With wall screens and projection onto the moving floor you could create the necessary visual illusion.

      Gettin' there ... gettin' there ...
      • yeah, I was thinking about matching it with the opposite signal in the ear/brain but I kid you not, the first thing I thought was well that's not how they do it on Star Trek cuz some alien species don't have the same inner ear structure.
      • Fucking with the ear gyros is probably best done while sitting down.
        It'd be even worse if you want several users on at once, which seems reasonable given the size of the thing. When your friend started walking, you'd start accelerating, which would either be pretty grating or, if you supressed your motion sensors, would cause you to fall down.
        I guess one of the reasons for the 'bigger is better' thing is that you can use the extra leeway to get smoother acceleration.
      • by tlhIngan (30335) <slashdotNO@SPAMworf.net> on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:56PM (#23042204)

        Actually I'm pretty sure there's no way for this to convince someone it's real. You know that the ground is moving under you when you take a step so you'll always know you're not really going anywhere. Plus, people can sense acceleration.


        Which is mostly done in the inner ear: Three "rate gyros" per ear (the semicircular canals) plus three linear accelleration sensors ditto (nerve cells with calcified masses on the ends).

        But it turns out these can be fooled by elecrtostimulus from varying magnetic fields generated by coils mounted on a headpiece near them.


        Actually, you can fool them quite easily, as any pilot knows. "Spatial disorientation" has downed many aircraft, usually because the pilot thinks the aircraft is doing one thing (flying straight and level), when it's really doing something else (descending/turning, or ascending/turning leading to stall).

        One trick done during training is having the instructor do a maneuver like a turn continually for a minute or two, then ask the pilot to level the aircraft (by feel). The end result is quite... interesting. Let it continue for a minute, and the aircraft will be in a very strange attitude. Another thing is to simply let the pilot fly blind, by feel, and see what trouble it leads into.

        It's why IFR pilots must trust their instruments and not their gut feel.

        I don't see why you can't apply similar tricks into this to make it realistic. After all, those simulator rides feel pretty damn real even though the cabin only moves a few feet each way.
      • by Julie188 (991243)
        Seems like an awful lot of trouble to help people avoid something they do easily and naturally -- walking. I mean, maybe it's great for people stuck in prison ... or those who can't walk for physical reasons. But I, personally, like to be outside. I don't need VR to mimic reality all that much because I actually HAVE reality around when I want to be part of it. When I go into VR, I'd rather fly or swim or use my superpowers.
      • by naam00 (1145163)
        hmmmm, how about tilting the treadmill as you walk into a certain direction? Like how they simulate accelleration in flight simulators? Gravity is simply an accelleration itself, after all.

        I am sure I didn't think this tilting roll-anywhere treadmill through thoroughly enough, still, why wouldn't it work?
  • Is the spoon image really for Input Devices, or is it symbolizing a step towards a real-world Matrix?
  • CyberCarpet (Score:3, Interesting)

    by vrmlguy (120854) <samwyse.gmail@com> on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:41PM (#23041544) Homepage Journal
    I'm interested in their omni-directional treadmill, CyberCarpet. I've tried to design something like this, but I inevitably wind up with a ten-foot (three meter, for our foreign friends) sphere that the user walks upon/within.
    • Re:CyberCarpet (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Friday April 11, 2008 @05:57PM (#23041670) Journal
      There was a science fiction short story involving just such a reverse trackball - though larger than ten feet - being used to trap a victim. Once on the ball, feedback rotated the ball to bring him to the center and keep him there, no matter how he ran, jumped, or dodged.
      • Interesting concept. Anyone know what story it was?
      • by steelfood (895457)
        This would be highly unlikely without a large enough ball.

        In order to "escape," you would need to jump the distance from the center to the edge. Or, effectively run with long leaping strides faster than the ball can roll. Since there's no friction between you and the surface while you are in the air, the only time the ball can return to the center is when the person has landed. If you immediately jump forward again, then either you will eventually get to the edge of the ball.

        If the ball's movement is depend
        • by fbjon (692006)
          No, I think the point is that no matter how you move, your center of gravity is kept above the center of the sphere at all times. If you jump to the side, the ball will simply move with your feet, cancelling out horizontal vectors, and making you go straight up and down. In other words, the ball is already moving before you leave the "ground". With perfect feedback and measurement, and very speedy rotation, you'll be trapped on top of the ball. Pretty scary, actually.
    • Since the video is "Coming Soon", does anyone know if this is a carpet of small spheres then?

      That also works, and would explain why the hard part was keeping track of which way you were walking.
    • by megaditto (982598)
      How about a giant hamster ball with the user inside? No need to maintain dynamic equillibrium, so much easier to control one would think.

      But even better than that would be to tie your user's feet to 3-d force feedback actuators: pretty much model it after an elliptical trainer, but with an independent drive for each leg with an added ability to perform lateral translations.
    • http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Cybercarpet_walk.jpg [wikimedia.org]
      looks like a bunch of track balls.
  • While this is definitely cool, I prefer the simple and elegant solution of walking inside a sphere.
  • Not new (Score:2, Interesting)

    by nodrogluap (165820) *
    We have a CAVE at our work, and the company that does the maintenance told me about and showed pictures of a 6 meter omnidirectional rolling carpet with VR display they built for the U.S. military. They were even trying to get wind and dust in the environment, but it would gunk up the works. It was probably a one-off though, whereas this new stuff seems to be going towards "commodity" vr.
  • by eepok (545733) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:01PM (#23041710) Homepage
    Somehow I didn't expect a link to a treadmill to be so quickly slashdotted. O.o
  • Wii 2? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by billy901 (1158761)
    The minds at Nintendo will quickly pick this up and expand on their Wii. People thought that the Wii was far away and would cost thousands of dollars. I'm sure we're on a pathway to playing ruining our fancy new plasma televisions by running into them! How will we create a safety strap for this one?
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      the wii's motion tracking isn't anything special, fuck the playstation 2 had an addon for it.
      • treadmills and trackballs aren't exactly new or special either. it's all about making their use intuitive and fun. which is something the makers of the wii seem to have succeeded at while the ps2 add-on faded into obscurity.
  • Oh man this would be sweet for first person shooters. Want to spend the entire level running? Better be in shape.

    Next we need to add heavy custom controllers: the "rocket launcher" accessory should be made of real metal (or cheap plastic with lead weights built in). For rocket ammo, they will sell little "ammo packs" that each weigh almost as much as the rocket launcher.

    Of course, some people will not play fair.

    "He's using the wall-shelf hack!" (putting the ammo on a shelf instead of carrying it)

    P.S. Fo
    • by jdigriz (676802)
      First person shooter, running around the whole level IRL, sounds like Lazer Tag. And yeah, done properly it's quite a workout for the sedentary. I know I'm hot, sweaty and out of breath after a few rounds.
    • by Asm-Coder (929671)
      You might like Urban Terror. It's open source, you have limited inventory, and you have stamina that runs out as you sprint or jump.
  • The article seems to have undergone the /. effect, so I can't tell if this treadmill will do things for elevation change. Steps might be too much at this point, but what about hills?

    Anyway, while going through a virtual world as if I were really there sounds cool, especially in the realm of video games, I think virtualization technology better fits the office, though it might see harder adoption.

    How many people need to be in an office building for a meeting? (Nevermind how useful the meeting actually is.) How many people travel thousands of miles to give one presentation, then fly back?

    Why not move phone conferencing to the virtual age? Obviously, having everyone represented by an avatar would make the meeting a bit ludicrous for those not used to it. So, why not take a page from the movie industry and go blue screen?

    The way I see it is that at various locations around the globe, there is a building full of meeting rooms. Large tables, nice chairs, but no decoration and it's all one color (say, blue). When people enter, they don a set of VR goggles. Cameras in both their goggles and around the room record people and project that real world scenario into this virtual world, then seen through the VR goggles. Then, whoever is "hosting" the meeting can set up or choose from various themes to decorate the virtual rooms. Various tools allow people to project into this virtual world, to get up and walk around, hell even virtual notes.

    Obviously, something would need to be done about the goggles such that either they were more like sunglasses or they were somehow removed in the digital projection. And it would take some serious hardware to do a good projection as well as including real-time video. But I believe that this kind of thing would be a big boon for international visits- now you only have to worry about time zones, not planes, hotels, and car rides. Fuel savings, cost savings (once the tech gets there), time savings. If done well enough, there would be no difference than if you were in person. Handshake aside, do you often make physical contact with the people you meet with? No dinner afterwards, unfortunately.

    You could have a meeting with potential clients in Japan and be home in an hour.
    • The article seems to have undergone the /. effect, so I can't tell if this treadmill will do things for elevation change. Steps might be too much at this point, but what about hills?

      It looked pretty flat in the one vague picture it showed when I finally got through.

      From what I've heard of some of these VR systems and their typical uses, it would seem like they couldn't get away without emulating, at minimum, the one or two foot elevation shift onto a soft platform (say, a bed) and then the arbitr

      • by RyoShin (610051)

        For just the reason you allude to, is it obvious this needs to be done by VR? I mean, I'd think a mere camera would be fine for that. How often do you need to see the people you're meeting (or have them see you) other than from some particular angle?

        I suppose that's true. The thought is that with a video monitor, no matter how big, you're still generally stuck at one angle from one level. If someone had, say, a highly-detailed model they wanted to show, it would be hard to do that with the video monitor

  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Friday April 11, 2008 @06:46PM (#23042110)
    I've been waiting for one with full human field of view (or as near as possible) with good resolution for the last 20 years. I still can't go to the shops and buy one. Even the ones that cost $20,000 are not that great in terms of Field of view. We have the computer power for some very impressive virtual environments yet the visual hardware is completely lacking. I only hope the popularity of mobile video spurs the development of better video glasses technology. Immersive (at least visually) virtual reality is long overdue now.
    • by timmarhy (659436)
      I hear you there. we have full HD displays on LCOS that are the size of a postage stamp, why can't they mount those kinds of displays in a set of glasses light enough that it doesn't break my neck?
      • by MrSteveSD (801820)
        Up until now, the only reason to develop them for the home market has been VR games, and none of the manufacturers seem to have been interested. Now mobile video is taking off, it may lead to better video glasses. The indicube [indicube.com] should be released soon which is a mobile video player with video glasses. They have a resolution of 800x600 and a field of view about equivalent to a 17 inch monitor on your desk. It's not great but I think it may get the public excited about video glasses and prompt the creation of
  • This is similar to the premise of David Brin's short story "Natulife (R)" in the collection "Otherness".
  • soon we'll see people addicted to VR, wasting away in front of their new reality. People insisting they've been to Paris but forgetting they've only been there in VR...Or at least thats what sci fi tells us XD. I guess if they try and accomodate things like walking rather than trying to simulate them psychosomnatically, we'll all at least get some excersize
  • It's a Roland the Plogger story, so you know there has to be something wrong with it.

    There have been a few previous attempts at 2D treadmills. They're usually just a big endless chain of belt-type treadmills, like this one. The problem is that the things are big, heavy, expensive, and may have pinch points.

    Here's a paper [utah.edu] which lists most of the previous omnidirectional treadmills. The Darken Omnidirectional Treadmill (1997) was a belt made of rollers. The Torus Treadmill [tsukuba.ac.jp] was an array of 12 small tre

  • Only 14 years from movie concept to reality. Here is a picture of the 'device' used in the movie to walk through virtual file rooms. http://film.virtual-history.com/photo/05/large/05397.jpg [virtual-history.com]
  • That's exactly like the Holodeck! Well, minus the force fields... memory-alpha.org/en/wiki/Holodeck

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