Enabling Unconstrained Omnidirectional Walking Through Virtual Environments: An Overview of the CyberWalk Project
The CyberWalk treadmill is the first truly omnidirectional treadmill of its size that allows for near natural walking through arbitrarily large Virtual Environments. The platform represents advances in treadmill and virtual reality technology and engineering, but it is also a major step towards having a single setup that allows the study of human locomotion and its many facets. This chapter focuses on the human behavioral research that was conducted to understand human locomotion from the perspective of specifying design criteria for the CyberWalk. The first part of this chapter describes research on the biomechanics of human walking, in particular, the nature of natural unconstrained walking and the effects of treadmill walking on characteristics of gait. The second part of this chapter describes the multisensory nature of walking, with a focus on the integration of vestibular and proprioceptive information during walking. The third part of this chapter describes research on large-scale human navigation and identifies possible causes for the human tendency to veer from a straight path, and even walk in circles when no external references are made available. The chapter concludes with a summary description of the features of the CyberWalk platform that were informed by this collection of research findings and briefly highlights the current and future scientific potential for this platform.