Take a Walk Anywhere in the World With Microsoft’s Latest VR Research

When it comes to combining both the real and digital worlds companies are making great strides in both software and hardware, from videogames like Reality Clash to devices like HoloLens 2, augmenting the world around us. Microsoft has been experimenting with taking this one step further, combining the real world with virtual reality (VR), allowing someone to take a normal walk yet wander around a completely different location.

In a recent blog posting this week Microsoft Research revealed several new VR solutions the company has been working on, one of which is called DreamWalker. Imagine walking to work, the same old route you’ve walked countless times, suddenly turning into a journey through an exotic city.

Using a variety of sensing technology including a dual-band GPS sensor, two RGB depth cameras, and a Windows Mixed Reality headset with inside-out tracking, DreamWalker allows for a real walk to be virtual adapting to a particular route to maintain the immersion. “To accomplish this task, the technology first plans users’ paths in the virtual world and then uses real-time environment detection, walking redirection, and virtual world updates once users have embarked on their journeys,” the blog notes.

Should the system discover an object either stationary or moving it’ll introduce a virtual one to stop a user bumping into something or walking into danger. Creators can also introduce options for controlling a users path so the virtual and real align, such as animals or dynamic events like a parking car.

Another project being developed is CapstanCrunch, a haptic controller which magnifies the force supplied by a hand to create sensory feedback. Normally this is done by way of a large motor but in CapstanCrunch only a small motor is used alongside a linear and directional brake.

“A key component of the brake—and the inspiration behind the controller’s name—is the capstan, a centuries-old mechanical device originally used to control ropes on sailing ships. “It’s an old technology that people used to tie boats, but we use it in a different way that right now enables us to multiply the force of a small internal motor,” says Eyal Ofek, a Senior Researcher.”

Using this method the team notes: “The capstan magnifies an input force by around a factor of 40”, helping reduce the size and weight of the design.

Microsoft Research will be in New Orleans at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2019. to showcase the projects. For further updates keep reading VRFocus.

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