Alongside announcing that Lanny Smoot will be the first Disney employee besides Walt to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Disney also shared one of his newest projects called the HoloTile floor, which just may be a game changer for VR and could bring us ever closer to experiencing the Holodeck from Star Trek.
As for the HoloTile floor itself, it is described by Disney as the “world’s first multi-person, omni-directional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor.” You have to think of it like a floor made of many tiles that do all they can to keep people or objects in the center of them. This could allow people to “have a shared virtual reality (VR) experience, walk an unlimited distance in any direction, and never collide or walk off its surface.”
Many of us have experienced the joy that can be a really stellar VR experience, but there are always certain limitations to the immersion that comes with it. While it’s great to be able to visit The Black Spire Outpost on the planet of Batuu in Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge in VR, you also run the risk of being pulled back to Earth when you bump into your couch and can only move a few feet here and there.
With the HoloTile floor, Disney appears to be envisioning a future where those limitations are no more and we can explore wide environments and feel that we are actually walking or running through them despite us staying mostly in one place. For those Star Trek fans out there, this sounds a lot like the promise of the Holodeck, a smallish-room that could virtually take our favorite crews wherever they wanted for some fun and relaxation between missions when it wasn’t malfunctioning and trying to murder them.
The HoloTile floor can do more than just let people walk on it, as it can also move objects around. In the video, we see an object being moved around the floor and an arm extending at the corner of the screen, as if they were using the Force to move an object. Yes, the possibilities of this are making a Star Wars fan like myself VERY happy.
The applications of the HoloTile floor also extend beyond virtual reality, as Disney notes “The HoloTile floor can also be an insert in a theatrical stage, allowing performers to move and dance in new ways, or stage props and structures to move around or appear to set themselves up.”
However, it’s important not to get too excited yet as Smoot notes “we don’t know yet where that will be used.” So, while we may have to wait a while to see what this tech could become, its an exciting glimpse into the future that could hopefully one day change how we experience our favorite universes in Disney Parks, our homes, and beyond.