Microsoft Files Patent Application for Virtual Reality Floor Mat

Immersed in a virtual world, the user can be at risk for bumping into real-world objects, such as walls and coffee tables. Microsoft has filed a patent application for a technology to address this issue. With its “virtual reality floor mat activity region,” the user has a designated safe space to explore, with so-called fiducial markers that help the VR headset recognize the mat as well as the possibility of pressure sensors in the mat. Some VR players have used their own rubber mats as a physical cue to be safe.

Variety reports that, although VR systems try to reduce risks with warning messages when the user leaves the play space, VR has still racked up numerous accidents, including a Russian gamer who is said to have died after falling through a glass table. The fiducial markers described in the patent refer to objects placed in the field of view of an imaging system that appears in the image produced, for use as a point of reference or a measure.

The patent application “also explores the idea of having a dedicated start position.” With regard to the proposed pressure sensors, the application noted that “the floor mat may include one or more vibration devices integrated into the floor mat to generate vibration at the floor mat.”

The application also revealed that one implementation could “allow consumers to customize their own play space with interlocking tiles … [and could also] work with a VR system powered by Microsoft’s Xbox,” in addition to a PC-based or standalone VR headset. One illustration “clearly features an Xbox in combination with a Kinect controller.”

Variety points out that, “patent applications don’t necessarily suggest any active products under development … [and that] the mention of the game console in particular could have just been an attempt to cover all of its bases, and make sure that no one files a competing patent specifically for very use case.”

Microsoft had previously mentioned “bringing VR to the Xbox,” but then didn’t follow up. More recently, executives “told the media that they had no plans to bring VR to the Xbox One, and the company made no mention of VR when it previewed the next-generation Xbox at this year’s E3 either.”