Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Canada have developed floor tiles that can simulate the look, sound and feel of snow, grass or pebbles underfoot. Such a tool could perhaps be used for augmented reality applications, tele-presence, training, rehabilitation or even as virtual foot controllers.
The modular “haptic” floor tiling system is made up of a deformable plate suspended on a platform. Between the plate and platform are sensors that detect forces from the user’s foot. And the plate can give off vibrations that mimic the feeling of stepping on different materials. A top-down projection and speakers add visual and audio feedback.
Yon Visell, a researcher at McGill’s Center for Intelligent Machines and first author of the paper, says the tiles could be used “either for human computer interaction or immersive virtual reality applications.”
The floor could even function as a giant touch-screen controlled by feet, Visell suggests, acting as a way of navigating a giant map on the floor of a building lobby or public square. He says it could also be used in gaming and entertainment, adding more interactivity.
The group detailed the floor tiles in a paper presented at the 2010 IEEE Haptics Symposium, in Waltham, MA last month.