London, Apr 15 : You may soon be able to enjoy a stroll around the ancient city of Pompeii, courtesy an omni-directional treadmill developed by European researchers.
The treadmill is a "motion platform" which gives the impression of "natural walking" in any direction.
The platform, called CyberCarpet, is made up of several belts, which form an endless plane along two axes.
Researchers have combined the platform with a tracking system and virtual reality software recreating Pompeii.
The key to the CyberCarpet is a platform with a large chain drive.
The chain drive is made up of 25 conventional treadmills, which move in one direction, at right angles to the direction the chain is pulling.
The platform gives "walkers" a walking area of 4.5m by 4.5m and moves fast enough to allow jogging at about two metres per second.
"This is the first omni-directional platform that allows near natural walking," BBC quoted Dr Marc Ernst, research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, in Tubingen, Germany, as saying.
The belts and the chain work independently so the "walker" can be recentred on the platform if he were to accelerate from a point towards the edge of the platform.
The platform weighs 11 tonnes and a series of 40 kilowatt motors can move a mass of seven tonnes.
"The size of the platform matters. If you make it too small you have to counteract each step a person takes. It feels like walking on ice. You need some size and from a perceptual point of view the larger the better," said Dr Ernst.
Dr Ernst said the platform would have to be 100m by 100m if a walker were to have no sensation of being recentred.
"To make it feel natural for walking you cannot go any smaller than six meters by six meters; it's a question of physics," he added.