Latest Disney invention is a VR marvel

Disney HoloTile invention, omni-directional treadmill for VR experiences
(Image credit: Disney)

Disney announced one of its latest inventions, HoloTile, as part of a recent video released to YouTube celebrating the success of its engineer and inventor (or Imagineer as they put it), Lanny Smoot.

Smoot recently became only the second Walt Disney employee to be inducted into the Nation Inventors Hall of Fame (with Walt himself being the first for his work on the multiplane camera), with 106 patents to his name through working on multiple cutting edge special effects and marvels throughout Disney parks.

HoloTile: the omni-directional treadmill of tomorrow

HoloTile is an omni-directional treadmill designed to be used alongside VR experiences. A series of small tiles work in tandem to ensure the person stood atop is tracked and positioned at all times, pushing them in the opposing direction to their movement and keeping them stationary, while physically engaging in movement.

We've seen similar tech before from a number of premium brands, but Smoot's requires nothing more than the user to be stood atop it: no waist harness required. It can even support multiple people at once, all walking in different directions simultaneously.

The HoloTile can even be controlled by external input, allowing users to be pushed and moved around the floor as if by an external force  — that could be used for simulating vehicle movement or shifts in direction from below.

Disney HoloTile invention, omni-directional treadmill for VR experiences

(Image credit: Disney)

HoloTile: life beyond the Disney-verse?

Sadly, if you're itching for a HoloTile floor of your own, you're likely out of luck. While the video shows Smoot enjoying a stroll in VR using what appears to be a Meta Quest Pro, this setup isn't likely to be made available for retail purchase. However, it does showcase the further potential for VR and the ever evolving technology in the works to make it one of the most immersive experiences for enjoying games and media.

2024 is a make-or-break year for VR, and inventions like this only further the case for this excellent medium. With the Meta Quest 3 and Apple Vision Pro both being figureheads of the VR world over the coming year, we can only hope that now is the time that this medium truly gets its moment to shine. With inventions like this, it could only be a matter of time before VR matures into the standard experience as opposed to a fringe, new concept.

Rael Hornby
Content Editor

Rael Hornby, potentially influenced by far too many LucasArts titles at an early age, once thought he’d grow up to be a mighty pirate. However, after several interventions with close friends and family members, you’re now much more likely to see his name attached to the bylines of tech articles. While not maintaining a double life as an aspiring writer by day and indie game dev by night, you’ll find him sat in a corner somewhere muttering to himself about microtransactions or hunting down promising indie games on Twitter.