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Immersive Experiences from Disney Moving ‘HoloTile’ VR Floor

Combining Meta & Immersive Experiences

A new invention by researchers at Walt Disney Imagineering could take virtual reality (VR) to new immersive heights. The technology called the HoloTile Floor, allows users to seamlessly walk, run, and move in any direction while in a VR environment.

The omnidirectional treadmill floor comprises hundreds of small, hexagonal plates that can individually tilt and angle to simulate the feeling of natural movement. Dubbed a “giant magic carpet” by creators, the HoloTile can transport multiple users simultaneously through expansive virtual spaces without risk of collision.

The innovation is the latest from pioneering Disney inventor Lanny Smoot, who promises it will “take virtual reality immersion to the next level.” Disney plans to integrate the HoloTile Floor into location-based VR attractions at its theme parks, aiming to provide next-generation immersive entertainment.

The brainchild of longtime Disney inventor Lanny Smoot, the HoloTile consists of hundreds of small, interconnected hexagons that can individually pop up or slide down to form a virtually unlimited variety of surface patterns in real time. This allows the floor to smoothly match users’ movements and simulate walking, running, or any other locomotion in a virtual environment.

Imagineers running wild

As demonstrated by Smoot himself in a video, the HoloTile can support multiple users simultaneously, with each person getting their own customized treadmill experience. Users appear to glide magically around the floor, with nary a stumble or collision thanks to the intelligent coordination of the floor sections. “It’s like having telekinetic powers,” Smoot remarks, as he’s wheeled around the floor while casually sitting on a chair.

While still firmly in the R&D phase, Disney sees strong potential for integrating the HoloTile Floor into location-based VR setups at its parks and resorts. Smoot also envisions creative applications in shared VR gaming, augmented live performances, and other collaborative immersive experiences. “Imagine a number of people being in a room, being able to be somewhere else collaboratively and moving around, seeing, doing sightseeing,” he says.

Immersive Experiences in XR

Extended Reality (XR) is another application. No, we’re not splitting hairs. XR is also the term for video production that leverages direct view LED (DVLED) in place of traditional green screens. You’ve seen productions like The Mandalorian, Loki, and others leveraging XR. Imagine, then, an XR production where the background can shift and move as the actors on set can “move” while on this treadmill. Not only does this increase the overall immersive experience, it reduces costs of production.

Future of HoloTile

The HoloTile marks the latest innovation from Smoot, who was recently inducted into Walt Disney’s elite National Inventors Hall of Fame. With over three decades of pioneering work at Disney under his belt, we can’t wait to see what magic he conjures up next.


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