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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

One of the biggest problems with VR is that if you want to walk from A to Z you soon hit the walls of your living room, but now you can walk forever without ever leaving your room.

 

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Virtual Reality (VR) is great – provided that is you’re happy lying, sitting, or standing in one place. And while the development of new haptic VR jackets and full body suits mean you can now also feel and interact with everything in your VR world as well as see it, from the buildings and plants, to the punches and kicks, Steppingstone VR thinks its new approach to helping people move around naturally in VR, in the same way they would in the real world by, for example walking or running around, is a winner.

 

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The company has been working on a motion platform that uses electromagnetic propulsion to physically move players around as they stand or sit on a platform. You can see it in the early prototype video below, the platform gets its power supply from a specialized floor, a little like bumper cars, allowing it to quickly adapt and move in response to the player’s input in VR. The sensations of physically moving that the player feels should help to combat sickness in games with smooth locomotion such as Skyrim VR.

 

See the tech in action
 

But this is just the first step for the company, and CEO Samy Bensmida says the consumer version of its product “aims to include multiple moving platforms that users will be able to step onto.”

That, in my eyes at least could be much more interesting and useful. The Tiles, as Bensmida calles them, will move backward as you step onto them, in theory allowing you to physically walk around a massive game world, like Minecraft, without ever leaving the center of a space.

 

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You can see a concept in the video below, though Bensmida explains that this early system uses wheels, whereas future versions will use electromagnetic propulsion that will give the platform and the user much more autonomy.

 

A similar system is in development in China
 

“You will walk all day long in Skyrim with your legs, no harness, and get all the congruent inertial cues that go along with it,” says Bensmida.

And, yes, as expensive as it looks, Bensmida says the product is “100% consumer” with the aim of streamlining it to be viable for homes. Based on the prototype though there’s obviously a lot of work to be done to get Steppingstone anywhere near something we’d consider making space for at home or in the office, and many people would likely still be concerned about the safety of walking or running around virtual worlds when essentially blindfolded in VR.

 

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Still, Bensmida seems confident the team will pull it off, and is preparing a Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign to help it get there. So, if he can pull it off can you see yourself putting down electromagnetic flooring instead of carpet in your home or office if it meant complete and utter VR immersion? If not today then who knows, maybe in the future…

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the World Futures Forum and the 311 Institute, a global Futures and Deep Futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future” series. Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, E&Y, GEMS, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, Lego, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, T-Mobile, and many more.

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