Wizdish May Allow Your Living Room To Become A VR Holodeck

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Virtual Reality
The WizDish is a small dish-shaped platform that allows video game users to walk around their virtual reality playgrounds. The user slides on the slick concave surface of the dish to move their on-screen avatar around. Compared with other omni-directional treadmills, the Wizdish looks to be a cost-effective way to immerse yourself in 3D virtual reality - a holodeck experience for your living room.
A long with head mounted displays, one of the necessary next steps for virtual reality immersion is to find a way to physically walk around a VR environment without actually walking around the real world. Among the solutions (falling under the category of ‘locomotion device’ ) are omni-directional treadmills (ODT).

The majority of ODTs are big, expensive, and impractical for home use. The first person to crack the code — to create an affordable and reasonably sized device for VR locomotion — could revolutionize how and where people experience virtual reality. Recently, Ben Lang at Road To Virtual Reality spoke with Julian Williams, the creator of WizDish, whose product might be the first VR locomotion device to find its way into your living room.

The WizDish design simplifies the complicated mechanics of omni-directional treadmills and instead goes for a completely passive device with no moving parts. The unit is a small concave disk which is no bigger than a small circular mat. To use the WizDish, the user puts on a special shoe called the WizShoe (naturally) and performs a skating motion which Williams, the creator of the WizDish, says closely mimics walking.

“The WizDish exploits the fact that you have 29 bones in each foot to balance with. You slide your feet over a slick concave surface in a simulation of walking that gives surprisingly similar proprioceptive cues to real walking. Once you can see where you are going, you take more confident strides and quickly forget it’s a simulated walk. The key advantages of the WizDish are that you can start, stop and turn with absolute ease…,” said Williams.

Originally, the Wizdish was designed to create a locomotion device as a means of immersing players into a virtual world for a TV game show. Though the show never made it far out of the concept stage, Williams never lost a passion for finding a way to immerse players in virtual worlds.

“…one night with lights out [I was] playing Return To Castle Wolfensteinwith headphones on loud. I couldn’t believe as a grown man I could feel apprehensive about pressing a ‘w’ key to walk through catacombs. When I thought I’d completed the level I turned round to face an unseen skeletal soldier and was so shocked I fell off my chair pulling the PC on top of me. Sprawled on the floor I realised I’d never had an experience like that watching TV, and started to think how I could really experience being ‘inside the game’,” said Williams. “In 2001, inspired by Half Life, I thought of ways to put a live contestant inside a video game as a TV gameshow idea, but found commissioners have been burned trying this before. I discovered virtual reality in my research and have been passionate about it ever since.”

Williams began work on a locomotion device after this eye-opening experience. He knew he needed a solution that was cost-effective, lightweight, and portable. After devising a number of solutions but finding them already patented Williams settled on the concept that would eventually become the WizDish.

After filing a provisional patent, Williams brought on board Dr. Charles King, a chartered physicist and Fellow of the Institute of Materials, to help fine tune the friction between the WizDish and WizShoe. Williams now has a full patent on the design.

It isn't clear how much the WizDish would cost to buy were it to become available to ordinary gamers, but Williams has suggested that a successful Kickstarter campaign that generated the right number of pre-orders could keep the price to “just a few hundred dollars each.” Which may not be particularly cheap, but is certainly a lot more affordable than any of the omni-directional treadmills currently being touted as viable options. In the meantime, researchers and developers are invited to contact Williams via the WizDish website.

SOURCE  Road To Virtual Reality

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