Problem: Researchers from the Robotics Laboratory (Director Dr. Clément Gosselin, Department of Mechanical Engineering) and the Computer Vision and Digital Systems Laboratory (Director Dr. Denis Laurendeau, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering) are currently developing a walking platform (locomotion interface) allowing a user to move in a virtual environment as if he were moving in a real environment. The walking platform will be equipped with a network interface allowing it to transmit the walking parameters of the user on a local network (Ethernet network). Thus, the position, orientation and speed of the user can be known to the virtual environment and, in return, the content of the virtual environment will also be known to the walking platform which can thus recreate the terrain profile for the user. The use of several copies of this platform will make it possible to create realistic scenarios of group operations involving several people working in virtual environments. 

Motivation: The architecture that has been chosen for the platform differs significantly from the systems currently proposed in the literature, in particular systems based on omnidirectional treadmills. Indeed, the proposed platform is based on two parallel mechanisms with six degrees of freedom actuated by cables (one mechanism per foot). The parallel mechanism has many advantages including high mechanical bandwidth and high precision control. The use of cables as actuators also makes it possible to reduce the weight and size of the mechanism.

Approach: First the requirements that the platform must satisfy in relation to the walking application must be studied in order to define the work envelope required to recreate a realistic walking environment. Next, different approaches will be explored that will keep the walking platform in its optimal operating position while making the user feel like they are walking on an infinite surface when he actually moves very little. The third stage of the project will be to participate, with other researchers, in the design and development of a miniaturized prototype of the platform and in the design and implementation of the control algorithms for it.

Applications: Urban military applications or search and rescue applications are concrete examples of applications of the walking platform with network interface. In addition, the walking platform will be able to be used in rehabilitation applications as it will provide therapists with a perfectly controlled environment through which they will be able to plan the walking exercises adapted to the patient.