Microsoft’s ‘DreamWalker’ Turns Everyday Commutes Into VR Walking Experiences

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Realistic VR environments based on actual routes to real-world destinations. 

Earlier this week during the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software & Technology in New Orleans, Microsoft unveiled a new prototype system that uses a combination of VR, GPS-based inside-out tracking, and pre-authored digital worlds to create a dynamic VR walking experience layered over actual walking routes located throughout the real-world.

“To keep the user from colliding with objects and people in the real-world, DreamWalker’s tracking system fuses GPS locations, inside-out tracking, and RGBD frames to 1) continuously and accurately position the user in the real world, 2) sense walkable paths and obstacles in real time, and 3) represent paths through a dynamically changing scene in VR to redirect the user towards the chosen destination,” states Microsoft Research in a paper detailing the specifics behind the prototype system.

Microsoft’s ‘DreamWalker’ Turns Everyday Commutes Into VR Walking Experiences 1
Image Credit: Microsoft Research

Put simply, DreamWalker uses its GPS capabilities to scan potential routes to a specific real-world destination and then uses that information to search for pre-existing VR environments featuring similar paths. Meanwhile, the systems inside-out tracking technology monitors any physical obstructions, allowing users to navigate large, open real-world environments without fear of walking into any objects or people.

In order to properly test the technology, Microsoft had several participants take a brief VR walking tour across their campus. 

Microsoft’s ‘DreamWalker’ Turns Everyday Commutes Into VR Walking Experiences 2
Image Credit: Microsoft Research

“We demonstrate DreamWalker’s versatility by enabling users to walk three paths across the large Microsoft campus while enjoying pre-authored VR worlds, supplemented with a variety of obstacle avoidance and redirection techniques,” adds the company. “In our evaluation, 8 participants walked across campus along a 15-minute route, experiencing a virtual Manhattan that was full of animated cars, people, and other objects.”

Obviously, the potential behind technology such as this is painfully apparent. The ability to generate complex VR environments leading to real-world environments could have an immense impact on numerous aspects of our daily lives. Imagine turning your boring work commute into an otherworldly trip across a strange alien planet, or late-night dog walks into engaging gaming experiences.

Feature Image Credit: Microsoft Research





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