Disney has introduced a curious accessory that will help you really explore the world in virtual reality: the HoloTile. The device is a “moving floor” made up of individual circular blocks that can change direction to simulate a walk without moving from its place.
The entertainment giant’s blog says the equipment is the “world’s first multi-person, modular, expandable treadmill floor.” It promises a VR experience in which the person can walk freely through virtual scenarios using headsets without leaving the moving surface or having the risk of colliding with objects.
The HoloTile was developed by Lanny Smoot, an engineer who has worked for more than 25 years at Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development. With more than 100 patents under his belt, he helped create the special effects for several Disney park attractions.
The inventor mentions that the “treadmill floor” can be used simultaneously by several people to explore scenarios in virtual environments, without them bumping into each other. For example, the promotional video shows Smoot and another person testing the prototype of the equipment with the Meta Quest Pro and walking in different directions.
The HoloTile will also have applications for theater stages. The movable floor will allow performers to move or dance in new, more creative ways, while the structure and props can also move to create richer environments.
Novelty, but not so much
According to the Road to VR website, the HoloTile is not the world’s first omnidirectional treadmill. Several models of “movable floor” have been developed in the past, but they were too complex and expensive to reach the general public.
In many cases, the accessories had difficulty replicating a normal walk. This forced people to take smaller steps instead of acting more natural and fluid when walking on the “treadmill floor.”
The expectation is that HoloTile will allow users to perform movements more naturally when walking. Whether it’s interacting with the equipment at one of the Disney parks or, in the future, as a home accessory to expand the VR experience.