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CirculaFloor is a locomotion interface using a group of movable floors. The movable floors employ a holonomic mechanism that achieves omni-directional motion. Circulation of the floors enables users to walk in arbitrary directions in a virtual environment while their positions are maintained.

Life Enhancement
It has often been suggested that the best locomotion mode for virtual worlds would be walking. It is well known that sense of distance or orientation while walking is much better than that while riding in a vehicle. However, the proprioceptive feedback of walking is not provided in most virtual environments. CirculaFloor is a new locomotion device that provides such a sense of walking. It enables a revolution in entertainment or training simulators.

Although advanced visual simulation often requires a good sense of locomotion, existing systems do not provide credible simulations of walking. One serious application is in an "evacuation simulator." Analysis of evacuation of victims after disasters is important to public safety. But it is impossible to carry out experiments with human subjects during an actual disaster. Since evacuation from disaster areas is accomplished by walking or running, the CirculaFloor will be an indispensable interface device for experimental simulations. Combining the CirculaFloor and an immersive projection display may provide the ultimate sense of presence. This integrated system could greatly contribute to teleoperation or virtual travel.

Locomotion interfaces often require bulky hardware because they have to support the user's entire body. Also, the hardware can not be easily reconfigured to improve performance or add new functions. Considering these issues, the goals of the CirculaFloor project are:

1. To develop compact hardware for creation of an infinite surface for walking. The major disadvantage of existing locomotion interfaces is difficult installation.

2. To develop a scalable hardware architecture for future improvement of the system. We have designed a new hardware architecture that supports easy upgrading of the actuation mechanism or adding new mechanisms for creation of uneven surfaces.

The major innovation of this work is a new method for creating an infinite floor. Treadmills can provide infinite floors, but they can not easily enable omni-directional walking. A system that offers a motion foot pad for each foot can simulate omni-directional walking as well as walking on uneven surface. The major limitation of this method is the walker has to be careful not to mistrace the foot pad.

The CirculaFloor is a new method that combines the advantages of treadmills and foot pads. It creates an omni-directional infinite surface with a group of movable floors. Combining the floors provides sufficient area for walking, so precise tracing of the foot position is not required. And it is possible to create uneven surfaces by mounting up-and-down mechanisms on each floor.

Sunday, 8 August
1:45 - 3:30 pm
Room 404AB

Hiroo Iwata
University of Tsukuba/ATR Media Information Research Labs

Hiroyuki Fukushima
University of Tsukuba

Haruo Noma
ATR Media Information Research Labs

Hiroaki Yano
University of Tsukuba

emerging technologies jury and committee
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Conference 8-12 August, Exhibition 10-12 August.  In Los Angeles, CA