Patent Office approves Google's concept for motorized VR shoes

Cal Jeffrey

TS Evangelist
Staff member

Virtual reality developers are always looking for ways to make the VR experience more immersive. We’ve covered various haptic gloves that allow you to “feel” objects. Realistically walking around in VR, however, is more difficult to pull off requiring either an expensive and bulky omnidirectional treadmill, or tons of play space.

Google filed a patent for motorized shoes that simulate walking, but can be used in a confined space like your living room. The footwear would use small wheels that gently roll the user back toward the center of the room as he or she walks in any direction.

UploadVR reports that the idea is based on “infinite redirected walking” that is under development by other companies. Dynamic Saccadic Redirection (DSR) is one technique to achieve this. Developed by Nvidia, DSR tricks the user's eyes and causes them to walk in different directions even though the VR is telling them they are walking straight. Thus the user can be redirected to avoid walking into walls and even physical and virtual obstacles.

However, Nvidia’s technique requires at least a 20-square-foot play area. Since Google's shoes would redirect the users physically back toward the center of the play space by rolling the wheels opposite the player’s direction of movement, the space required would be significantly less.

Japanese startup Cybershoes has a similar approach using strap-on shoes with slick bottoms. Rollers on the soles register distance-traveled data, which is relayed to the VR computer for rendering. The disadvantage here is that to use the Cybershoes users must be seated on a stool to keep them stationary. Google’s method proposes to eliminate this necessity.

The patent reads:

"A physical position of motorized footwear in a physical environment may be tracked, and movement of the footwear may be transmitted into corresponding movement in a virtual environment. When a distance between the motorized footwear and a boundary of an operational zone defined in the physical environment is less than or equal to a threshold distance, a motor of the motorized shoe may be actuated. Actuation of the motor may in turn actuate a locomotion device of the motorized footwear, to move the motorized footwear back into a return zone defined within the operational zone. This may allow the user to walk, seemingly endlessly in the virtual environment, while remaining within a defined physical space in the physical environment."

At this time the motorized shoes are only a concept that has been approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office. There is no official word from Google on how far into development the shoes are.

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Uncle Al

TS Evangelist
Awwwww come on! This is REALLY old news, in fact I remember the ad for the last ones, "These boots are made for walking and that's just what they'll do ........ "
 

IAMTHESTIG

TS Evangelist
Sounds really cool but with my elementary grade understanding of physics, I don't think it is possible to make this work quickly enough for fast walking or running, turning, and without the effect of having a rug pulled out from under your feet.
 
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Mikael_r

TS Member
Sounds really cool but with my elementary grade understanding of physics, I don't think it is possible to make this work quickly enough for fast walking or running, turning, and without the effect of having a rug pulled out from under your feet.
I agree. There's lots of potential issues with this design. And if there's delay in returning the user to the 'origin position' what if they're standing pidgeon toed or something? These shoe treadmill things need to be multi-surface, omnidirectional treadmills without causing imbalance.
 

Evernessince

TS Evangelist
Sounds really cool but with my elementary grade understanding of physics, I don't think it is possible to make this work quickly enough for fast walking or running, turning, and without the effect of having a rug pulled out from under your feet.
Yeah, they will definitely have a problem with that. We need VR shoes where it feels like you are moving but aren't actually moving at all. Simply redirecting the user back to the middle just has too many drawbacks, especially with these being motorized and likely requiring power.
 

cuerdc

TS Booster
Vr is slowly blooming, soon be as common as mobiles if they can get it right.
But do think a stationary point being a bowl/treadmill/multiaxis trainer kind of thing or mobile around warehouse/building/outdoors with matching map foundations more feasible.
Either way nice to see investment and tech slowly evolving in vr...