The Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International (ATR) has developed a unique type of robotic system that adds new freedom of movement to the concept of a treadmill.
A treadmill is a fixed platform that moves underfoot so a person can walk or run without actually going anywhere.
The new robotic system, dubbed CirculaFloor, comprises a set of four mobile stepping stones. Each stepping stone is equipped with an ultrasound sensor to detect its own location and a second sensor that uses laser light to determine the position of the person’s foot. The robots move automatically with instructions radioed from a PC.
With this setup, a person can walk at different speeds and in different directions and one of the robotic stepping stones will always anticipate where the foot will land, moving itself into position to be underfoot and then moving backward like a treadmill when the foot lands.
In tests of this system, a person could walk around in a 4 meter square room at speeds of up to 70cm a second without any problems.
This system could be combined with a head-mounted display to create a virtual world where the person is free to walk around.
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