Disney Just Got Us One Step Closer To The Holodeck


A new advanced treadmill-like floor invention from Disney could solve one of the biggest problems with VR: movement. But, it could also bring the world one step closer to making Star Trek-like holodecks a reality.

In a recent video from Disney, we got a sneak peek at what the company is calling the “HoloTile,” an omnidirectional treadmill-like floor that multiple people can use at the same time. The first look at this new impressive tech was included in a video primarily dedicated to celebrating Disney research fellow and famous Imagineer Lanny Smoot’s induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Coincidentally, Smoot is the inventor behind this new impressive HoloTile technology. (He also invented that awesome and realistic-looking lightsaber, too.)

As seen in a demonstration of the tech, it appears that HoloTile is using a flat layer of small, circular rollers that can shift and rotate as people walk on them. According to Smoot, the HoloTile can automatically adjust to different walking speeds and directions, always keeping the user on the HoloTile floor. So you could walk, run, or even dance in one direction and never actually move more than a few inches.

Disney Parks

The tech can be used alongside virtual reality headsets to provide a more immersive experience that isn’t limited by controllers or the size of your room. This excites me a lot. I’ve shown VR to a lot of people and most can handle the headset and looking around. But the moment they have to hold a controller to move, they tend to fail. It’s an abstract way to control yourself in a 3D space that a lot of people aren’t familiar with, especially if they are already wearing a headset and can’t see their own hands.

Unlike some other, clunky omnidirectional treadmills, HoloTile can support multiple people, so you could theoretically have a family walking around a virtual recreation of a Star Wars planet or Disney castle and they could all explore it separately at their own pace. That sounds a lot like a holodeck from Star Trek to me. 

Speaking of Star Wars, another clip in the recently released video shows someone waving their hand around which moves a box that is sitting on top of the HoloTile floor. It looks a lot like someone using the Force to move an object around and let me tell you that 10-year-old Zack would have lost his mind at being able to do that. If this becomes a thing in the parks one day, letting kids move things with “the Force,” I’ll be so jealous.

As for what this tech will actually be used for, it’s not quite clear yet. Smoot says there are “many applications for this type of technology,” but Disney Imagineers haven’t figured out where the tech will be used just yet.

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By asm3a