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Google’s latest ambitious goal is to enable users of its VR goggles to walk endlessly in the virtual environment. The US giant has filed a patent application for a pair of shoes fitted with sensors and wheels and which will allow users to move as if walking, an innovative concept that could provide a boost for the virtual reality industry, which has been flagging of late. 

 

“Motorized footwear for augmented and/or virtual reality,” is the title of a patent that Google filed in the USA and published on 15 November, as reported by Numerama. If it comes to fruition one day, the innovation will go a long way to removing the limits on movement in the virtual environment. Thanks to a system of omnidirectional roller skates, users can travel long distances in every direction without having to leave their lounge.

 

Sensors and wheels

 

According to the Google patent, the shoes will be fitted with sensors with the ability to recreate users’ actual movements instead of simulating them with a joystick. Also boasting wheels, they would compensate for users’ movements by taking them back to their starting point, as if they had a mini omnidirectional treadmill fitted to the soles. It is a concept that would resolve most of the problems linked to moving in the VR environment, though a number of technological challenges would need to be addressed before they could ever be used.

Balance is one such problem. The shoes would need to be calibrated and synchronised to prevent users falling over. Numerama referred to the pitfalls encountered by a Swedish startup in trialling a prototype giant omnidirectional treadmill last summer. The device, which operates in a similar way to Google’s shoes, encountered difficulties when returning to the starting point. In response, users were given harness to prevent them from falling over. 

 

Google committed to virtual reality

 

For users to start wearing Google’s shoes, games will also have to be adapted and scenarios offered in spaces that are sufficiently limited in size, given the fact it is unlikely that users will want to travel several kilometres on foot.

The project is a long way from becoming a reality, though there is one thing for sure: Google remains committed to VR, an industry that has experienced something of a slowdown of late. 

 

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