Disney has gone public with a new invention. The project is called “HoloTile Floor”, or “Holo-Fliesen-Floden” in German. You could also call it high-tech tiles. The invention not only aims to advance the field of virtual reality, but is also reminiscent of the holodeck from Star Trek.
But what kind of ingenuity is behind it if science fiction could soon become reality – and what is the invention actually about beyond the euphoria?
What are Disney's high-tech tiles?
Disney himself describes the device as a “multi-person treadmill floor”. Simply put, it is a floor area consisting of many small tiles. These tiles move so that any objects or people on them stay in the middle.
Disney's blog post states that the invention enables “a shared virtual reality (VR) experience.” People on such a surface can “walk an unlimited distance in any direction without hitting anything or leaving the surface.”
Are the often bulky VR treadmills a thing of the past? See how the inventor of engineered tiles shows them in a short video.
How could Disney's high-tech tiles be used?
Possible possible uses for the holo-tiles would be, for example, several people standing side by side moving through virtual worlds without ever bumping into each other. Its use on show stages is also obvious; it could help artists develop new movement sequences. Or you can let an object move across the tiles in your direction as if by magic – just as if you were a Jedi Knight.
Taking the invention further, thanks to the holo-tiles you could move through huge, virtual worlds, even though you are basically always in the same place in your room. This would be reminiscent of the holodecks known from Star Trek, where the crews of the space ships meet in a small room and from there move through gigantic, virtual worlds.
Speaking of Starship Enterprise: If you want to see how Star Trek gets funny, you might enjoy the latest season of Lower Decks.
Star Trek: The not really serious animated series is entering its fourth round
Another obvious but not very entertaining area of application would be as a conveyor belt in companies.
However, the inventor of the holo-tiles emphasizes that it is not yet entirely clear how the technology will actually be used. The use and future for the tiles could look exciting.
But who is actually the creative man behind the magical tiles?
Who invented Disney's high-tech tiles?
The inventive man behind the tricky floor tiles is Lanny Smoot. Smoot has been employed by Disney's “Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development” department, which deals with technical developments, for over 25 years.
Over the course of his career, Smoot has worked as an electrical engineer, a researcher in the telecommunications industry, a scientist and an inventor. Over the years, Smooth is said to have filed over 100 patents, 74 of them during his time at Disney. More specifically, Smoot has successfully filed 106 patents to date, as he explains in the video below.
Some of his inventions during his time at Disney include electromagnetic eyes for robots and many practical effects at Disney's theme parks, such as extendable lightsabers and the floating Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
In the almost five-minute video, Smoot introduces himself to the audience. From minute 3:10 the “HoloTile Floor” is discussed and demonstrated.
Link to YouTube content
While we're at Disney: The Star Wars Hotel has to close: more than 4,600 euros per night for an interactive film costing 370 million euros
How do you rate the invention from Disney? Is this an ingenious invention that could advance the field of virtual reality, or could “magic” tiles be used in a completely different place? Or to put it another way: How do you think VR will develop in the coming years? Feel free to write us your predictions in the comments if you like.