Microsoft’s recent history with virtual reality (VR) is a bit mixed. Sure, the company is continually pushing forward with augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) thanks to HoloLens 2, but when it comes to VR, the Windows Mixed Reality series of headsets haven’t exactly excelled. VR compatibility for Xbox never materialised while rival PlayStation VR has seen continual success. Now, a recent patent has shed some light on Microsoft’s possible future VR plans, a floor mat design purely for VR purposes.
Originally filed back in April 2018 and published by the US Patent & Trademark Office this month, Microsoft’s patent is for a ‘Virtual Reality Floor Mat Region’. This is no mere rug with a Microsoft logo on it, it’s designed as a haptic feedback system which connects to a ‘computing device’, with features including pressure sensitivity and markers to be detected by an ‘optical sensor’.
The patent describes a VR system where: “the floor mat includes a plurality of spatially distributed pressure sensors integrated into the floor mat to detect a physical pressure applied to an activity surface of the floor mat; and wherein the positioning of the physical subject is identified based, at least in part, on pressure data received from at least one pressure sensor of the plurality of pressure sensors.
“One or more vibration devices integrated into the floor mat to generate vibration at the floor mat; and wherein the virtual reality experience is augmented by generating vibration at the floor mat via at least one vibration device of the one or more vibration devices. The floor mat includes an interior region having a first surface texture and a surrounding region having a second surface texture that differs from the first surface texture.”
It’s a slightly unusual design to come up with when considering the fact that most 6DoF VR headsets use a virtual floor mapping system which can be created and adjusted to most living room environments. A fixed floor mat would then have to come in a range of sizes to suit customers needs – does it need to be square or could it be circular?
What’s interesting about the design is the use of haptics, pressure sensitivity and dual surfaces. The latter would certainly make for a safe play space as you’d be able to tell when you’re near the edge but would it break immersion? Haptic feedback though could be very interesting when simulating different surfaces like sand or tarmac. As for the pressure feature, how about a modern Dance Dance Revolution?
It’s a patent that’s likely never to see the light of day yet it’s good to know Microsoft is still exploring home VR gaming. And could that like box in the picture – next to the TV marked ‘160’ be an Xbox? If Microsoft does eventually embrace VR gaming on Xbox, VRFocus will let you know.
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