A Japanese professor has created robotic floor tiles that anticipate a user's steps and automatically position themselves beneath his or her feet.
The wheeled, moving tiles are covered with a proprietary fiber called Kuralon EC. Developed by Japanese textile maker Kuraray, it incorporates nanometal composite technology.
Attached to the tile like a carpet, two layers of the electrically conducting fiber detect foot pressure. The tile then sends information about the user's predicted step to a computer controlling tile positions.
He says the tiles could be used for virtual reality or video game applications to create the illusion of walking, which would be better than trying to make the entire floor move.
Iwata is part of a virtual reality lab at the University of Tsukuba outside Tokyo. A few years ago the lab produced the quirky String Walker, a "locomotion interface" that also creates the illusion of walking while remaining in place.