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The Robot Tiles system was created by Hiroo Iwata, a professor working in the
VR lab at the University of Tsukuba in Japan, and a familiar name for this site.
It is essentially a clone of the CirculaFloor
system, with updated and improved robotic swarm AI and motion control.
Like CirculaFloor, Robot Tile is a locomotion system consisting of four robotic
floor tiles, designed to allow an 'infinite treadmill' in VR. Wherever you put
a foot, the four tiles work as swarm robots to ensure there's a tile under that
foot when it lands. Walk as far as you like, and you will remain in the exact
same place as you started.
Unfortunately, like its predecessor, Robot Tiles suffers from a lack of speed.
By the time a tile has detached from the back of the group, skirted forwards
and locked onto the front, the user should have already taken two, three, even
four steps. Thus the user is forced to walk slowly whilst the tiles accommodate
them. The system would undoubtedly work better with more tiles, but that starts
to take up floor space, defeating the object of the exercise.
One major improvement over the earlier team's creation is that each unit is
covered with a layer of Kuralon EC, a touch-sensitive conductive fabric that
detects where pressure has been applied by the walker's feet. Combine this with
gait recognition systems and you have an interface capable of predicting where
they will take their next step.
However, the fabric covering is attached to the base of the units. This has rendered
them incapable of simulating hilly or uneven terrain.