Although locomotion is not the primary objective of most VR experiences, it is essential to the success of many experiences and thus has become a critical aspect of successful human-computer interaction design.
A VR locomotion technique must account for real-world limitations, keep the user safe and comfortable, and still facilitate exploration. Traditionally, the gold standard in terms of ease and comfort is 1:1 walking, where movement in the real world is translated identically into movement in the virtual world. However, this form of locomotion is impractical in most applications due to spatial limitations and remains inaccessible to non-ambulant persons who wish to use VR.
Given the desire to maintain a natural mode of locomotion (i.e., normal walking for ambulant persons, and normal wheeling for wheelchair users) for virtual exploration and the need to restrict user movement to spatially limited regions that reflect typical real-world environments (i.e., living rooms, offices, and laboratory spaces), our team has developed a novel interface that uses a manual wheelchair for efficient, comfortable VR navigation.
We are currently evaluating the comfort and usability of our device for all users, and in the future, intend to design immersive experiences for clinical care, empathy-building, post-injury acclimation, and late life mobility maintenance.