Star Trek’s holodeck moves toward reality
by Maria Welych - Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Star Trek’s holodeck becomes a reality

A room that takes you anywhere, to the moon of a distant gas giant or early 19th century London. Sounds like something that could exist only in science fiction? Not if the folks behind Project Holodeck and Turbo Tuscany have anything to say about it.

Project Holodeck borrows its name from the holodeck made famous in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” A team of University of Southern California students in the Advanced Games Program are working with James Iliff, Nathan Burba and Palmer Luckey, founder of the hot virtual reality company Oculus VR, to produce a system that provides 90 percent of the virtual reality of high-end systems at 1 percent of the cost.

It’s a goal that became achievable only with the invention of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset expected to ship next month that’s generating a lot of buzz among gamers.

The current hardware design of the Holodeck system uses the Oculus Rift for head-mounted video feedback, the PlayStation Move optical system for head tracking and the Razer Hydra magnetic system for limited body tracking. When combined, these systems allow the team to create a realistic 3D space that the user can freely move around in and interact with, Project Holodeck says on its website.

Turbo Tuscany, being built at Finland’s Aalto University, also incorporates the Oculus Rift headset and pairs it with different combinations of Microsoft’s Kinect, Razer Hydra and PlayStation Move to create full-body virtual reality immersion. Read about it here.

So far, the biggest problems have been injury to players’ bodies and their equipment as they move and jump in a small space when testing the system, said Turbo Tuscany creator Tuukka Takala.

“We kept tripping on cables from the Oculus Rift, and the solution to this would be to convert the Rift to a wireless version by creating a custom battery pack and using a wireless HDMI and USB transceiver,” Takala told Gamasutra.

But the perfect holodeck is still a ways away, said Iliff, of Project Holodeck.

“I think we’re getting pretty damn close with the current tech we have on hand,” he told Gamasutra. “But there is still a long way to go. Considering how far we’ve come since the Industrial Revolution, I would say that a perfect simulated reality of some form – like the holodeck – will emerge in at least two centuries.”

If there really was a holodeck, where do you want to go or what do you want to do during your first visit? Me, I’ve always wanted to travel to space so I’d probably pick a moon of Jupiter. Email me at mwelych@gmail.com with your pick.

Bits & Pieces

  • The newest explosion in medical smartphone apps has been hearing aid apps. According to fiercemobilhealthcare.com, three apps costing $3.99 or less are on iOS, and three companies are developing Bluetooth-enabled hearing aid hardware for smartphones.
  • This Vimeo movie bills itself as the history of video game title design in two minutes, but it also shows how video games themselves have changed over the years.
  • Black Friday sales are starting to leak out and, if true, the Toys R Us video game deal is a doozy. Some video games are reported to be buy one, get one at 40 percent off while others might be priced buy one, get one for $1. The shopping frenzy will begin at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Some Steam sales have also been leaked. According to a Russian developer, Valve will hold two promotional periods this holiday season. The first, called Steam Autumn Sale, will discount a selection of video games from Nov. 27 though Dec. 3 and the second, called Steam Winter Holiday Sale, will run Dec. 19 through Jan. 2. No word on what games will make the cut.
  • Here’s a “no, duh!” report: A Pew Research Center survey found that smartphone adoption is increasing the number of photos and videos posted online. The survey reported 54 percent of U.S. Internet users  post original pictures or videos online, up from 46 percent last year.
  • Jon Jones, the Ultimate Fighting Championship light-heavyweight champion and a graduate of Union-Endicott High School in New York’s Southern Tier, will be one of two fighters featured on the cover of EA Sports UFC, a new video game that will be available next spring for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
  • MIT Technology Review reports that smartphone maker’s custom bloatware … ahem, software might be causing security issues on Android-based devices. According to a North Carolina State University study, changes manufacturers made to the stock Android software were responsible for more than 60 percent of the security flaws uncovered in phones from different handset companies.

 

Maria Welych, who was technology editor at The Post-Standard for five years, is director of marketing and public relations at the Milton J. Rubenstein Museum of Science & Technology. She can be reached at mwelych@gmail.com.