NEWS: VR treadmill allows virtual worlds to be explored on foot

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New facilities in Milton Keynes to explore the challenges of sharing public walkways with autonomous vehicles

The Transport Systems Catapult (TSC)  has opened a ‘Visualisation laboratory’ in Milton Keynes. The new facilities will allow designers and engineers to use Virtual Reality to test out new transport technology networks and explore proposed buildings and civil engineering projects.

The laboratory includes the UK’s first commercially available omnidirectional treadmill built by Swedish company Omnifinity. The 6 metre wide Onmideck6 is mated to an Oculus Rift DK2 VR headset to allow users to walk at freedom in any direction within a Virtual Reality environment.

One of the first projects to be undertaken in the Visualisation Laboratory is a joint project between the Catapult, Omnifinity and Virtual Viewing, which explores the challenges of sharing public walkways with autonomous vehicles.

Visitors can walk inside a virtual Milton Keynes populated with pedestrians and Autonomous Pods from the Lutz Pathfinder project.

By collecting information about the physical responses and subjective responses when subjects come into close proximity with the pods in VR, it may be possible to identify how to improve the Pod’s control algorithms. For example how the Pod responds when it detects a human on the path, how it indicates this externally and how it changes its direction.

Other planned applications for the Omnideck6 include investigating and signing off the designs of buildings and big civil engineering constructions.

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Providing the ability to walk around the outside and inside a new structure will help decision makers to better understand the scale and context of an engineered design, says TSC.

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