Virtual reality is all about immersion. It’s purpose, as its name would suggest, is to create a completely new reality in a virtual space. For the AEC industry, this means VR allows architects, contractors, engineers, and clients to “walk” through a building before construction has even begun.
“Walk” earns its quotation marks here because unless a firm has invested in large, cumbersome, and expensive equipment, these VR tours are less of a walkthrough and more of a point and click adventure. But Google has recently filed a patent for motorized footwear that would allow users to actually walk endlessly in a small physical space and have it translated to the virtual space.
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Google filed the Augmented/Virtual Reality Footwear patent on May 9, 2018, and the application was published on Nov. 15, 2018. Judging by accompanying drawings, the motorized footwear will strap to the bottom of a user's feet like an old pair of Fisher Price roller skates. According to the patent’s abstract, the physical position of the motorized footwear in a physical environment would be tracked and translated into corresponding movement in a virtual environment. This means if a user takes a step in real life, they will also take a step in the virtual world.
As the user walks, the footwear will track where it is in the physical space, and when a distance between the VR shoes and a defined boundary of an operational zone in the physical environment is less than or equal to a set threshold distance, a motor in the shoe will be actuated. This motor then actuates a locomotion device in the footwear that moves the footwear, and the user, back into the defined operational zone. This movement takes place in the physical space without interfering with virtual traversal.
If it ever comes to fruition, the Augmented/Virtual Reality Footwear would create a new level of immersion for VR and AR devices and could further help building project teams and clients visualize spaces.
For a more in-depth look at the patent, click here.