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This Disney treadmill could change VR gaming forever

Disney's imagineers have created the Holotile, a 360 degree treadmill that, while in its experimental phase, could change VR forever.

Lanny Smoot standing on his creation, the disney holotile

As a VR gaming enthusiast, I love seeing the next big breakthroughs approaching on the horizon. While there is an argument to be made that the Pimax Crystal Super headset is the most imminent advancement in virtual reality headsets, Disney’s new Holotile treadmill is by far a more broadly appealing advancement. I’m concerned, however, that it may never be suitable for a commercial release, at least not in its current form.

While the best VR headsets are always looking to move the hobby forward, it’s the Holotile that presents the most exciting potential advancement at this moment in time. Disney has shown off its 360-degree floor treadmill a few times now, but it recently allowed the first non-Disney employee to test it out, tech YouTuber Marques Brownlee, known better as MKBHD.

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In his video, he goes into detail about how the treadmill works, stating that it’s built into the floor and comprises rotating discs, which sit atop individual cone-shaped fixings with motors inside each segment.

It turns out that the Holotile never allows you to walk flat against the surface, and instead is perpetually angled, with the discs then spinning clockwise or counterclockwise to reposition the user towards the center of the treadmill.

It’s a complex technology, but in practice, it looks like the simplest design ever, and that’s magic that only Disney can produce. As he progresses through testing the Holotile, Marques reaches the point where he throws on a VR headset and starts walking around a Star Wars-style environment, and strangely this is where he experiences some disconnect in how his mind and body are acting.

He claims there is a “difference between what your eyes see, and what your body and brain feel,” which creates a “disagreement” similar to motion sickness. While it would take some time to get used this feeling, which he points out in the video, it’s clear there is a possible pathway to the Holotile becoming a more refined product.

While we’re excited to go hands-on with the world’s interchangeable visual engines in the Pimax Crystal Super, should Disney ever need someone else to come and test the Holotile, I am happy to volunteer.