Walk Like an Avatar

Lady looking into a virtual reality headset.

Avatars can walk-the-walk — can you?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Walking? Piece of cake! We’ve been doing it since we were babies. BUT retraining these motor skills after injury or surgery can take YEARS of physical therapy. Is there a way to speed up this process?

Omar Khan and colleagues from the University of Warwick may have an answer. VR Avatars! Avatars are the ideal instructors. They demonstrate perfect technique, never get tired and are available twenty-four-seven. But do people ACTUALLY learn from them?

The researchers gave twenty adults VR headsets and tested their ability to mirror an avatar’s walking. “Simon Says” goes hi-tech! How did they do?

Turns out, humans are TERRIBLE at walking like an avatar. BUT Khan had a SOUND idea! Adding realistic stepping sounds to the VR experience. When people can see AND hear their virtual therapist walking, they do great!

Khan hopes that VR tech can speed up rehabilitation for patients needing physical therapy.

Couch calisthenics and virtual walking in my PJ’s?  Yes, please!