Virtual climbing: An immersive upslope walking system using passive haptics
Background In virtual environments (VEs), users can explore a large virtual scene through the viewpoint operation of a head-mounted display (HMD) and movement gains combined with redirected walking technology. The existing redirection methods and viewpoint operations are effective in the horizontal direction; however, they cannot help participants experience immersion in the vertical direction. To improve the immersion of upslope walking, this study presents a virtual climbing system based on passive haptics. Methods This virtual climbing system uses the tactile feedback provided by sponges, a commonly used flexible material, to simulate the tactile sense of a user’s soles. In addition, the visual stimulus of the HMD, the tactile feedback of the flexible material, and the operation of the user’s walking in a VE combined with redirection technology are all adopted to enhance the user's perception in a VE. In the experiments, a physical space with a hard-flat floor and three types of sponges with thicknesses of 3, 5, and 8 cm were utilized. Results We recruited 40 volunteers to conduct these experiments, and the results showed that a thicker flexible material increases the difficulty for users to roam and walk within a certain range. Conclusion The virtual climbing system can enhance users' perception of upslope walking in a VE.
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