Getting stuck in an infinite labyrinth may sound like a nightmare, but in the virtual world, an endless maze opens the door to limitless exploration.
Users could visit vast virtual museums or explore far-away destinations all from the comfort of their own living room. “In the morning you could walk into the Guggenheim and in the afternoon explore the Taj Mahal,” said Hannes Kaufmann, associate professor for virtual reality at the Vienna University of Technology.
Kaufmann and his colleagues designed a new virtual reality (VR) system that system tracks the head and body movements of a person wearing headset, and then steers them through an infinite set of virtual spaces when, in effect, they’re just walking in circles.
As the headset wearer moves forward, the VR system’s computer automatically generates new virtual hallways and rooms “on the fly,” creating the illusion of an inexhaustible environment. However, the system is calibrated to contain the user in a much smaller physical space, using an array of virtual switchbacks.
For their experiments, researchers designed a virtual house with an “infinite” number of rooms and corridors. In reality, users were only walking around a space roughly the size of a boxing ring.
“People think they are walking in much larger environments. We can simulate rooms connected by corridors, and we could simulate outdoor areas in which certain areas are restricted,” Kaufmann told New Scientist.
Next, researchers want to add another person to the environment, but first the VR system must modified so that people can simultaneously meet in the virtual and real world without bumping into each other. Kaufmann presented his system IEEE Virtual Reality conference last month. You can a video of the virtual room here.
Credit: Video screen grab