How does it feel when real and virtual worlds merge and you become part of The Matrix in real time? In a Stanford University-Microsoft research project on human-computer interaction, researchers substituted a real-world walking experience with a virtual one.
The research team presented a virtual reality (VR) system where users could explore and remain immersed in virtual environments. But they had to wear headsets to experience it and got stared at by people roaming the physical world. When a person wearing the headset goes walking, the VR component map sout a similar route from elsewhere in the world, and the backdrop is a pre-scripted VR environment. The system protects the user from colliding with objects and other people. Also, GPS locations have been integrated with the system for 'inside-out tracking' and positioning the user accurately in the real world. The new VR system senses walkable paths and then comes up with virtual paths in a dynamically changing scene to redirect the user to the real destination.
There were eight participants walking around the Microsoft campus (in reality) but experiencing a walk through a busy and crowded Manhattan street. Many would argue that the Microsoft campus was pleasanter than the other option, but the demonstration was interesting for future applications. Later, it may give you access to landscapes and environments you long for - a sunny beach or the quiet countryside, for instance. As of now, these experiences have limitations, and there are safety concerns. But the project indicates immense potential and future possibilities.