Disney unveils HoloTile: a sliding floor for enhanced VR experiences
Disney’s Research and Development department, led by engineer and inventor Lanny Smoot, has introduced HoloTile, “the world’s first multi-person, omnidirectional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor.”
HoloTile represents a significant leap in VR technology, addressing one of the most persistent challenges in the field: locomotion. Traditional VR setups often restrict physical movement, leading to either a risk of collision in the real world or motion sickness from artificial movement. HoloTile aims to solve this by allowing users to walk in any direction without actually moving from their spot.
This innovation opens up new possibilities for multiple users to interact within the same virtual space independently. As Smoot explained: “It will automatically do whatever it needs to have me stay on the floor. And what’s amazing about this is: multiple people can be on it and all walking independently. They can walk in virtual reality and so many other things.”
The demonstration video, featuring Smoot traversing a virtual environment using a Quest Pro headset, offers a glimpse into the potential of HoloTile. The backdrop of the video intriguingly showcases what Smoot sees in the VR environment.
The applications of HoloTile extend far beyond individual entertainment. Smoot envisions varied use cases, ranging from collaborative virtual sightseeing to theatrical stages where dancers could perform extraordinary moves. The scope of this technology hints at a future where physical and virtual realities blend seamlessly, offering experiences previously confined to the imagination.
Smoot has been a longtime member of Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development and is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He becomes the first Disney Imagineer to be bestowed with this accolade, and the second person from The Walt Disney Company to join the ranks – the first being Walt Disney himself, who was posthumously recognised in 2000 for his work on the multiplane camera.
Upon learning of his induction, Smoot said: “I was honoured and humbled at being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. With all of the inventing greats, however, I caught a true lump in my throat when I realised that I was only the second person at The Walt Disney Company being presented with this honour, and the first person was Walt Disney himself.”
For almost 30 years, Smoot has expanded the frontiers of technology, crafting unique and breathtaking experiences for Disney's global audience. His career spans roles as a theatrical technology creator, inventor, electrical engineer, scientist, and researcher, culminating in over 100 patents. This achievement positions Smoot among the most eminent Black inventors in American history in terms of patents granted, as highlighted by Disney's patent attorney Stuart Langley. Notably, 74 of these patents were developed over his 25-year tenure at The Walt Disney Company.
Among his many accomplishments, Smoot is credited with giving Madame Leota her ability to “float” in the Séance Room at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park; crafting the state-of-the-art extendable lightsaber used by Disney Live Entertainment; inventing the Magic Playfloor interactive game experience on the Disney Cruise Line; producing the immersive Fortress Explorations adventure at Tokyo DisneySea; and designing the virtual and interactive koi ponds at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.