Treadmills in Action

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Omnidirectional Treadmill

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New Paths through the Virtual World

Cybernetics experts are using the world’s first omnidirectional platform to study how the brains of walkers combine hearing, seeing and feeling.


Locomotion interfaces (treadmills) are an important tool to study the complex interaction between action and perception during walking. This is possible on two different locomotion interfaces.

Large linear treadmill

The linear treadmill setup consists of three main components: the treadmill itself (Bonte Technology, Netherlands), a four camera Vicon® MX-13 optical tracking system, and a visualization system that displays 3D graphics in a head-mounted display (see Figure). All three components are controlled by separate dedicated computers. The linear treadmill measures 6 x 2.4 m (L x W) and is capable of speeds up to 40 km/h. It is controlled from a pc via a CANbus connection. The treadmill can be controlled in either open loop or closed loop mode. For the closed loop control, the position of the user on the treadmill is measured with the Vicon® system, which tracks infrared-reflecting markers on the helmet worn by the user. Based on the position of the helmet and its change over time the speed of the treadmill is adjusted in order to keep the user on the treadmill. The Vicon® data are also used to update the visual input, matching the head movements made by the user. The large linear treadmill is located adjacent to the multi-agent lab.

Omnidirectional treadmill

The omnidirectional treadmill allows for near-natural walking through arbitrarily large virtual environments and that can be used for basic research. The basic mechanism consists of 25 belts (0.5m wide) that are mounted on two big chains. The chains constitute one motion direction (up to 2 m/s), while the belts run in the orthogonal direction (up to 3 m/s). Together, they can generate motion in any direction. The chains move 7 tons, driven by 4 large 10 kW frequency-coupled engines. The treadmill measures 6.5 x 6.5 x 1.45m (LxWxH), with an active walking surface of 4.0 x 4.0m. Position of the person on the treadmill is measured with a Vicon® tracking system and used to adjust the treadmill velocity as a function of walking speed. Together with a head-mounted display the treadmill system allows users to walk through infinitely large virtual environments in a natural way. The omnidirectional treadmill is located under a false floor in the large tracking lab.
Last updated: Thursday, 05.04.2018