Disney unveils new HoloTile technology for VR experiences

In Virtual Reality News

January 23, 2024 – Disney‘s Imagineering Research & Development department has recently unveiled an intriguing new technology known as ‘HoloTile,’ which it stated is “the world’s first multi-person, omni-directional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor.”

The new invention, which is part of Disney’s continuous effort to enhance immersive experiences at its parks, is the brainchild of Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot, who introduced the HoloTile in a video released by the company late last week.

According to Disney/Smoot, the HoloTile technology is a multi-person, omni-directional, modular, expandable treadmill floor that allows any number of people to have a shared virtual reality (VR) experience, walk an unlimited distance in any direction, and never collide or walk off its surface.

Disney Research Fellow and longtime member of Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development, Lanny Smoot.

As well as applications for VR and immersive experiences, Disney also stated that the technology has the potential to enhance on-stage performances, and when inserted in a theatrical stage could allow performers to move and dance in new ways, or stage props and structures to move around or appear to set themselves up.

“Imagine a number of people being in a room, being able to be somewhere else collaboratively and moving around, doing sightseeing… Imagine theatrical stages that might have these embedded in them so that dancers can do amazing moves,” said Smoot. “There are just so many applications for this type of technology, and we don’t know yet where it will be used.”

Disney first filed a patent application for the technology in 2017, which described a modular floor system, composed of active tiles equipped with numerous disks. Each of these disks has a raised edge, creating a flat surface for the tile.

The disks are set at specific angles to control the direction in which an object on the floor is moved. The floor’s drive system can also orient and rotate each disk, allowing the raised part of the disk to interact with objects on it, guiding their movement across the floor.

Disney noted that Smoot is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, adding that he is the first Disney Imagineer to receive this recognition, and only the second individual from The Walt Disney Company to be inducted—the first being Walt Disney, honored posthumously in 2000 for the multiplane camera. Smoot and his fellow Class of 2024 inductees will be formally honored in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 9.

For more information about Disney’s technological advancements and the HoloTile, please visit the company’s website.

Image / video credit: Disney / USPTO / YouTube

About the author

Sam Sprigg

Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past seven years.