Google obtains patent for virtual reality shoes

One of the biggest problems with virtual reality is that pesky old regular reality keeps getting in the way. You’ll notice it any time you’re “walking” through a virtual room and bump into a very real wall. Fortunately, virtual reality shoes may soon be here to save us.

Google has obtained a US patent for motorised shoes that will activate in the opposite direction your feet are moving. This will, according to the patent, “allow the user to walk, seemingly endlessly in the virtual environment, while remaining within a defined physical space in the physical environment.” In other words, it will be like walking up a down escalator, except the escalator is strapped to your feet.

The wearable technology would be a progression from the current solution to the problem of running out of real space while traversing a virtual world, which are omnidirectional treadmills such as those made by Virtuix. While effective, the treadmills can be cumbersome and difficult to assemble, not to mention expensive. But a shoe you can just slip on and lace up makes things far easier.

It’s tough to predict how much Google’s “Augmented and/or Virtual Reality Footwear” — we assume a fancier name is in the works — will cost, but there is competition to help stabilise the market. Cybershoes are slip-on soles that attach to normal shoes. They have a roller on the bottom, allowing gamers to roll along a sensor pad that comes with a stool in the middle.

While this allows players to move 360 degrees and “run” in virtual reality games, it’s still an awful lot of equipment compared to just the shoes, and you have to sit down while your brain is focused on running. However, Cybershoes are still less expensive and less cumbersome than omnidirectional treadmills, so things are trending in the right direction.

Though we don’t know when Google’s virtual reality shoes might come out, it’s exciting news for gamers who want to put some pep in their step.