Here’s a way to truly feel the earth move under your feet. These robotic blocks are designed to automatically detect where you’re walking and constantly position themselves in front of your feet so you never fall to the ground.
Robot Tiles were created by Hiroo Iwata, a professor working in the VR lab at the University of Tsukuba in Japan. Each robotic vehicle is covered with a layer of Kuralon EC, a touch-sensitive conductive fabric that detects where pressure has been applied by the walker’s feet, predicting where they will take their next step. A set of ultrasonic sensors relay the position and orientation of each tile back to a central computer that tells them where to go next. Here’s a video clip showing off the Robot Tiles in action:
See – it’s sort of like an infinite walking surface. While you have to walk really slowly for the tiles to have enough time to get into position, I didn’t ever see the pedestrian wipe out and fall on the floor, so they are doing what they’re supposed to do.
While I can’t think of too many real-world uses for this technology, Iwata points out that they could be perfect for providing a realistic walking surface within virtual reality applications, which could be kind of cool. But until they can speed these up, I’m keeping my feet on the ground.