A group of land combat soldiers train in a combat simulator. After a given order they open a door and step out to a virtual environment where they can move freely and perform various tasks. Many armies around the world would like to have a simulator where they could practise in this way. But for the simulation to work, the soldiers have to move on a surface that translates their movements into movements in the virtual world. The treadmills that are able to perform this task have always been extremely expensive and large.
The Omnidirectional Floor
Today there is a relatively inexpensive and manageable size solution for the problem mentioned above. The solution is called Omnidirectional Floor and it was designed by Daniel Johansson during his doctoral studies at the University of Skövde, Örebro University and at the company MSE Weibull.
Daniel came up with the solution by streamlining the functions a treadmill of this kind should have. “I’ve concluded that the “floor” has to comply with only two basic requirements: it must allow a person to walk in all directions and over time bring the person back to the centre. It is precisely these two requirements the Omnidirectional Treadmill meets”, says Daniel Johansson.
The omnidirectional floor consists of 16 triangles made of metal rollers that form a circle. A power strip underneath the triangles spins on the metal panels. If a person stands still on the treadmill, this person comes back to the floor's centre. And if the person runs on the treadmill, the speed of the rollers is increased as the person gets away from the centre. “A tracking system is used to keep track of the position of the person who is on the surface and controls the speed of the rollers”, says Daniel Johansson.
A famous floor
Daniel Johansson’s treadmill has already caught international attention. The Gadget Show in the British Channel 5 used the omnidirectional floor when they built the ultimate simulator for the computer game Battlefield 3. The programme trailer on YouTube has been watched over 3 million times.
It is the size and cost effectiveness that makes Daniel Johansson's invention unique. There are other technologies that can perform in a similar way as the omnidirectional floor. The most advanced one is available at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. “The floor is as big as a gymnasium and costs tens of millions”, says Daniel Johansson.
Daniel Johansson's dissertation resulted in a tangible product that can be bought. The omnidirectional treadmill, tracking system and computer control are sold for €110 000. Even though the floor was originally developed to train military personnel, MSE Weibull has also potential customers in other sectors that have shown interest in the product. “When our demonstrator has finished its presentation, the people from Disney came here and tested it. They wanted to take a look at the omnidirectional floor and analyse the possibility of use in their theme parks. In addition, companies involved in rehabilitation have shown interest”, concludes Daniel Johansson.
Information about the researcher
Daniel Johansson is 31 years old and grew up in Älmhult, Sweden.
He has a PhD degree from Örebro University and from the University of Skövde where he was associated with Företagsforskarskolan RAP, an Industrial Graduate School in Intelligent Systems for Robotics, Automation and Process Control.
He works for the company MSE Weibull in Älmhult.
Daniel Johansson defended his dissertation “Convergence in mixed reality-virtuality environments: facilitating natural user behaviour” on February 10th 2012.
For more information, please contact: Daniel Johansson, tel. +46 476-559 58