Google’s new invention has showed up in a patent granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office: shoes that allow you to walk forever in a limited space, the next step in immersive virtual reality experience (no pun intended).
Right now, the main problem with VR’s believability is that you are stuck in one position. You can’t freely walk through a virtual room or open space unless you have a special VR rig like the Virtuix Omni walking platform:
This is too voluminous to have in a house, which is why the best VR experiences now are those that make the player stay still in one place. Flight or race simulators are a natural for VR, but any open arena game — like GTA or RDR2 — will be impossible to do right now in VR. The only way to “walk” in VR is jumping from hotspot to hotspot, which doesn’t require any real walking at all.
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This is what Google wants to fix with these special shoes.
The patent — titled “Augmented and/or Virtual Reality Footwear” — describes a motorized shoe that can detect when you are running out of space to walk, activating a mechanism that will allow you to take a step in the virtual world without actually advancing in the real world (and smacking your face against a bookshelf).
The shoes, the patent abstract describes, “allow the user to walk, seemingly endlessly in the virtual environment, while remaining within a defined physical space in the physical environment.” In other words, you will think you are walking for real but, from the outside, you will look like Michael Jackson moonwalking.