Could Microsoft’s high-tech floormat be the future of at-home 4D entertainment? 

According to a patent filed by Microsoft to the United States Patent & Trademark Office earlier this week, the company has been experimenting with the idea of a unique VR floor mat device designed to enhance users immersion.

Reported first by Variety, “The Virtual Reality Floor Mat Activity Region” system would be comprised of three primary components: an optical sensor, a designated computing system, and — arguably the most unique feature, a special-purpose floor mat. This device would be composed of a series of fiducial markers, which would serve as points of reference for an imaging system, and pressure sensors to track the user’s exact position on the mat. This could allow the system to generate a custom experience based on your movements, further immersing you in the experience by simulating a potentially endless VR environment. 

Image Credit: United States Patent & Trademark Office

According to the patent, the proposed system would, “detect a presence of the one or more fiducial markers of the floor mat within the physical environment based on the image data; define an activity region within the physical environment based on the one or more fiducial markers detected within the physical environment; identify a positioning of a physical subject within the physical environment relative to the activity region; and selectively augment a virtual reality experience based on the positioning of the physical subject identified relative to the activity region.”

Here’s where things get interesting. The patent then goes on to detail the potential integration of haptic feedback technology, which could include “one or more vibration devices integrated into the floor mat to generate vibration at the floor mat; and wherein the virtual reality experience is augmented by generating vibration at the floor mat via at least one vibration device of the one or more vibration devices.”

The potential benefits a device such as this could bring to the at-home VR market are obvious. If priced correctly, this could be an incredible way for consumers to enhance their existing setups by essentially turning their personal playspaces into miniature location-based immersive experiences; not to mention the exciting opportunities it could offer developers who lack the budget or resources for expensive haptic technology. 

Microsoft’s latest Kinect in-action / Image Credit: Microsoft

Another interesting aspect of the filing was a photo that appears to include a Microsoft Kinect. As pointed out by Gizmodo, the concept image features what looks to be a second-generation Kinect. Despite receiving mixed reviews upon its 2010 release and eventually being discontinued in 2017, the device managed to develop a dedicated cult following among hackers and indie developers. Thanks to this passionate devotion, Microsoft announced last year that a new version of the motion sensor device was in the works and would be available in the near future,

While the patent makes reference to several potential computing and optical solutions, it’s entirely possible that the Kinect could be making its triumphant return as an accessory to this bold new system.

Feature Image Credit: United States Patent & Trademark Office

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