RedirectedDoors+ Puts Door Handles on Robots for Better VR — While Keeping Its Users Contained

Clever robotic system provides a real-world handle to touch while also subtly guiding the user away from actual walls.

Researchers at Tohoku University, the University of Bergen, and Chalmers University of Technology have come up with a way to make opening doors in virtual reality more realistic — by building real reality robotic door handles that can reposition themselves as-required.

"Our system, which built upon an existing visuo-haptic door-opening redirection technique, allows participants to subtly manipulate the walking direction while opening doors in VR, guiding them away from real walls," Kazayuki Fujita, Tohoku University professor and project co-lead, explains of the benefit of movable door-handles. "At the same time, our system reproduces the realistic haptics of touching a doorknob, enhancing the quality of the experience."

RedirectedDoors+ uses robotic door handles to both increase immersion in VR and to subtly redirect users away from walls. (📹: Hoshikawa et al)

The RedirectedDoors+ system works by putting a physical doorknob atop a mobile robot, capable of moving anywhere in the real world. As the user approaches a door in the virtual world, the robot positions itself ready to be "opened" — and by controlling the position carefully and rotating the virtual world as the door opens it's possible to make the user think they're passing through a series of rooms in a straight line while they're actually walking in circles around a single room.

"RedirectDoors+ has redefined the boundaries of VR exploration, offering unprecedented freedom and realism in virtual environments," Fujita claims of the potential for the system. "It has a wide range of applicability, such as in VR vocational training, architectural design, and urban planning."

Based on a 12-person study, the RedirectedDoors+ system appears to deliver on its promises: users received the haptic feedback of feeling a real door handle in their hand and the sensation of pushing or pulling it open, while also being redirected such that they remained within a relatively small play area considerably more compact than the virtual world they were navigating.

The team's work has been published under open-access terms in the journal IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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