Neuron Culture

My (very short) story on a new omnidirectional treadmill for spatial cognition research is up at the Wired site:

An Omnidirectional Treadmill Means One Giant Leap for Virtual Reality.

…This April, a team based at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, unveiled the CyberWalk, an omnidirectional treadmill designed to serve as a VR-capable movement platform.

Treadmills have been tried in VR before, of course, but early models were unconvincing — either too small to keep goggled wanderers on the platform or too slow, bouncy, or gap-ridden to feel the least bit real. The CyberWalk solves these problems with a stiff, gapless, 20 x 20-foot floor and movement and feedback systems that enable quick, fluid changes of direction.

We know what you’re thinking: Halo! But gamers must wait. For now, access goes to spatial-cognition and perception researchers, who will use the CyberWalk to "explore all sorts of things we haven’t been able to explore before," says William Thompson, a University of Utah computer scientist. In addition to studying our brains and understanding space and movement, they’ll assess potential for military and disaster-response operations and see if the device can be used to treat medical issues such as Parkinson’s.