CHI 2015: You can climb virtual stairs with these real boots

Inside the COEX Exhibition Center in Seoul, some researchers are taking giant steps.

Engineers from the Hasso Plattner Institute in Germany are showing off a pair of unusual motorised boots at the 2015 Computer-Human Interaction conference.

The boots are attached to motorized stilts that go up and down on command, instantly giving the user additional height.

They’re designed to simulate the effect of walking on stairs in virtual reality environments. Unlike other VR platforms such as moving floors that can bolster the illusion of walking in a virtual environment, the boots are portable.

They also let users walk around freely in a normal room, provided the ceiling isn’t too low.

In this demo, the mechatronic stilts are controlled through a smartphone app, but they’re really meant to work automatically in response to a virtual world, which users would see through a head-mounted display.

The researchers say participants who tried the boots gave their realism a 6 on 7 when stepping onto objects in virtual worlds, compared to 3.5 without the boots.

These boots may be made for walking – or stomping – but will undergo further development before they can boost VR users to new heights.

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