Locomotion Interfaces

Locomotion interfaces are energy-extractive devices that, in a confined space, simulate unrestrained human mobility such as walking and running for virtual reality. Locomotion interfaces overcome limitations of using joysticks for maneuvering or whole-body motion platforms, in which the user is seated and does not expend energy, and of room environments, where only short distances can be traversed. Their use yields realistic navigation and engagement in modeled worlds and an enhanced sense of spatial layout.

Our experimental platform is the Sarcos Treadport, a unique locomotion interface that comprises a large tilting treadmill, an active mechanical tether, and a CAVE-like visual display. Highly interdisciplinary teams of investigators seek to make the locomotion experience as realistic as possible. Of its hypothetical uses, rehabilitation applications are actively being researched.

Locomotion Display

Locomotion display is the presentation of mechanical stimuli to simulate the various aspects of natural locomotion. Our research focuses on the use of the Sarcos Treadport's active mechanical tether to achieve a variety of locomotion aspects.

Atmospheric Display

It has been argued that a totality of sensory effects, mutually reinforcing, is required for immersion, otherwise a missing sense will veto the immersive experience. A significant aspect missing from virtual environments is atmospheric display, particularly wind and smell. The Treadport Active Wind Tunnel (TPAWT pronounced teapot) project is the first to attempt to build a three-dimensional wind tunnel within the Treadport confines, in order to generate controlled wind from any direction on the user.

Rehabilitation Applications

One way of looking at the Treadport Locomotion Interface is as a realistic simulation of real-world walking in a safe environment. Two potential applications in rehabilitation are being pursued: incomplete spinal cord injuries and Parkinsons disease, sponsored by the following NSF grants.