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.
Figure 8 path used for continuous, tangle-free redirection.
Redirection in Virtual Floor Plan commissioned by JLL architectural firm