Using Pressure Patterns to Detect Natural Motions for Traversing Virtual Environments, 09-9178

Printer Friendly Version

Principal Investigators
Warren C. Couvillion
Roger R. Lopez
Susan M. Porter

Inclusive Dates: 01/01/00 - 12/31/00

Background - One of the foremost challenges in virtual reality (VR) is developing a method for the user to navigate the virtual environment (VE) in a natural and intuitive fashion. This necessity is particularly true in simulators, in which an unnatural method of navigation could lead to negative training, i.e., the user, in the real world, attempts to do what is required in the virtual environment, with possibly disastrous results.

Approach - The purpose of this project is to design, develop, and demonstrate a prototype locomotion input device that will allow a simulator user to navigate or traverse a VE using the same motions as in the real world, i.e., walk, run, or crawl. The research team designed and built a prototype pressure mat that returns the amount of pressure applied to several fixed points on the mat. In addition, visualization techniques were used to help make the pressure patterns output by the mat human-readable.

The pressure mat consists of an array of pressure-sensitive resistors covered by a thin, flexible mat. The resistor array is connected to a personal computer via analog-to-digital converter cards. 

Accomplishments - The team has successfully built the prototype mat shown below. Investigators have also developed a pressure visualization application that maps the pressure applied to each sensor to color and height. A screen capture of the application is also shown below. Working with personnel from SwRI’s Automation and Data Systems Division, the team has developed algorithms that determine if a person is walking forward, backward, right, or left based on input from the pressure mat. The pressure mat has been integrated into a VR application that allows users to walk forward, backward, left, or right using motions similar to those used in the real world.

The pressure mat consists of an array of inexpensive pressure-sensitive resistors.

The pressure mat allows users to traverse virtual environments using motions similar to the motions in the real world.


Visualizations of pressure patterns may have applications in sports training and rehabilitative therapy.

Intelligent Systems, Advanced Computer and
Electronic Technology, and Automation Program
2000 IR&D Home SwRI Home