Powered Shoes

A locomotion interface using roller skates actuated by two motors with flexible shafts. The device enables users to walk in arbitrary directions in virtual environments while maintaining their positions.

Enhanced Life
It has often been suggested that the best locomotion mechanism for virtual worlds would be walking, and it is well known that the sense of distance or orientation while walking is much better than while riding in a vehicle. However, the proprioceptive feedback of walking is not provided in most virtual environments. Powered Shoes is a revolutionary advance for entertainment and simulation applications, because it provides this proprioceptive feedback.

To develop a wearable locomotion interface that enables omni-directional walking while maintaining the user's position.

The major innovation of this work is a new actuation mechanism that cancels the displacement of the walker. Existing locomotion interfaces employ motion floors to create infinite surfaces. Powered Shoes employs active roller skates instead of a motion floor. The skates have three rollers, two of which are connected by a timing belt and driven by a motor. The diameter of each roller is 16mm, the overall height of the mechanism is 20mm, and the overall weight is 700g (the same as hiking shoes). The mechanism allows the user to walk at a pace of 60cm/s.

Walking is the most intuitive way to move about the real world. Although advanced visual simulation often requires a good sense of locomotion, existing systems do not provide a real sense of walking. Powered Shoes is a practical solution that allows the user walk naturally.

One possible application is an "evacuation simulator." Analysis of evacuation of people during disasters is important for social-safety planning. However, it is impossible to carry out experiments with human subjects during an actual disaster. A virtual environment is required for such experiments, and Powered Shoes will be an indispensable interface device for evacuation research. When Powered Shoes is combined with an immersive image display it may provide an ultimate sense of presence that can greatly contribute to teleoperation or virtual travel.

Hiroo Iwata
University of Tsukuba
iwata (at) kz.tsukuba.ac.jp

Hiroshi Tomioka
Hiroaki Yano
University of Tsukuba