This 360 treadmill could make Disney’s metaverse a physical playground

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The Imagineers at Disney have come up with what may be the killer app for metaverse hardware, a 360-degree treadmill controllable via remote control, physical movement, or gesture. 

U.S. YouTuber and 2022 Ultimate champion Marques Brownlee, professionally known as MKBHD, was the first non-Disney employee to test the prototype device.

The Holotile, as the device is called, resembles a thick plastic mat made up of hundreds of little spinning pieces arranged in a seemingly random geometric pattern. It uses tilted, spinning discs to essentially create a floor that moves in every direction.

MKBHD demonstrated how it can be used to move objects with a wave of his hand (gesture control), much like the fictional Jedi Knights from the Star Wars entertainment franchise are able to use “the Force” to move objects with their minds.

Per MKBHD, in the video:

“And they’ve actually mapped anything that crosses a certain line in front of me to move whatever object is on the floor. So when I move my hand in front of that line, the program moves the floor around to match the movement of the object with the movement of my hand.”

Next up, the Disney team put MKBHD in a chair and allowed him to fling himself around the device using a PlayStation controller.

Finally, the YouTuber was allowed to use the device on his own two legs. After a brief training period he managed to walk around in a Disney metaverse environment where his movements were translated into the virtual 3D environment.

While the Holotile is only a prototype, it’s an example of what’s possible. There are 360-degree treadmills on the market today but, of the devices we’ve seen, none are capable of the unfettered movement that Holotile is.

It’s easy to imagine myriad use cases beyond simply imitating scenes from “Ready Player One” where fictional gamers walk, run, and sprint around virtual environments using a futuristic 360-degree treadmill.

Disney apparently sees it as a method by which to explore the company’s theme parks in the metaverse. During MKBHD’s trial, both he and the device’s inventors showed it off by walking around in a digital version of the Magic Kingdom.

Outside of theme parks and video games, it could be used to move objects in shifting environments, to train first-responders, law enforcement agents, and military operatives, and in any number of educational experiences. It could also make collecting NFTs a more interactive, physically-demanding activity if we imagine a paradigm where “Pokemon Go” meets “Bored Apes” in a traversable environment.

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