The advantages of full body locomotion within a virtual space are well established; providing unlimited walking in VR would seem impossible. While other research is looking at elaborate hardware solutions such as omni-directional treadmills or life-sized hamster balls, I have approached the problem from the user's perspective: leveraging perceptual tricks to author content that provides an experience of free walking, without ruining the illusion with a break in presence.
I began with rough prototypes: putting gravel on the ground so a user could feel the crunch beneath their feet, making offset rubber shoes to slightly curve a user’s path, and having users push a heavy cart to increase the effort to travel a given distance. I then hired Evan Suma as a post-doctorate research assistant to help quantify my design concepts and experiments via perceptual studies. I have helped to guide the trajectory of the research with key concepts and decisions as our work has progressed from simple linear point-to-point travel to allowing guided free exploration. Evan, now a Research Assistant Professor, and I have grown the research line to include a Viterbi PhD Student and a new post-doc, and will soon be releasing an open source toolkit, a complete collection of our redirection tools and techniques.
Impossible Spaces: Maximizing Natural Walking in Virtual Environments with Self-Overlapping Architecture. IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics 18(4), pp. 555-564, 2012.
Redirected Walking in Mixed Reality Training Applications. Chapter in Human Walking in Virtual Environments: Perception, Technology, and Applications, pp. 319-331 Springer, 2013.
Making Small Spaces Feel Large: Infinite Walking in Virtual Reality. ACM SIGGRAPH 2015 Emerging Technologies, New York, NY, 1 page, 2015. To appear.
A Taxonomy for Deploying Redirection Techniques in Immersive Virtual Environments. IEEE Virtual Reality, pp. 43–46, 2012.
Towards Context-Sensitive Reorientation for Real Walking in Virtual Reality. IEEE Virtual Reality, 2015. Poster.
An Enhanced Steering Algorithm for Redirected Walking in Virtual Environments. Virtual Reality (VR) 2014 IEEE, pp. 65-66, 2014. Poster.
Redirection on Mixed Reality Walking Surfaces. IEEE VR Workshop on Perceptual Illusions in Virtual Environments, pp. 33-35, 2011.
Figure 8 path used for continuous, tangle-free redirection.
Redirection in Virtual Floor Plan commissioned by JLL architectural firm