Locomotion is one of the most significant unsolved problems for the virtual reality field. While viewpoint control is a fundamental task for any 3D application, the coupling between physical and virtual motions is critically important for maintaining immersion in VR. When users are wearing a head-mounted display, they can no longer see the real world, and they may collide with walls or other physical objects if they walk outside the boundaries of the motion tracking space. As a result, most VR experiences either restrict user movement within limited “room-scale” spaces (e.g. 5m x 5m) or utilize alternative virtual locomotion techniques (e.g. flying, teleportation, etc.) that are widely associated with negative effects such as simulator sickness and spatial disorientation. Thus, the laws of physics are seemingly at odds with the ambitions of developers and present a major barrier for virtual reality applications.
The Illusioneering Lab studies and applies techniques that imperceptibly manipulate the laws of physics to overcome the physical obstacles that normally restrict movement in virtual reality. This approach, known as redirected walking, has stunning potential to fool the senses. Experiments have convinced users they were walking along a straight path while actually traveling in a circle or that they were exploring impossibly large virtual environments within the footprint of a single real-world room. Research also focuses on computational systems that can automatically redirect users in complex physical spaces as they walk through potentially infinite virtual worlds.