TECHNOLOGY: 3D virtual reality

A European project called CyberWalk is about to develop a walking platform which will allow unconstrained movement in virtual worlds. The platform will be used to study human spatial cognition and movement in space, but later will also allow visits to historical sites or help improve training for athletes in virtual environments.

3D virtual towns, scenes and situations are presented to the viewer via a projection screen or specialized glasses equipped with small projectors. Viewers will be able to move within and interact with the virtual environment. As soon as they turn to the right, they will see the same virtual scene but from another visual angle – the same as in a natural environment.

Such virtual worlds will be used to study complex human behavior patterns under quasi-natural conditions.

The core of the CyberWalk walking environment will be a five meter diameter CyberCarpet. It will consist of thousands of small, loosely pivoted spheres – similar to oversized ball-bearings. The spheres are propelled by a treadmill mounted on a turntable, allowing to transport a person walking on the CyberCarpet back to the centre of the platform without them noticing.

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