Holodeck is a fictional simulated reality facility which was first coined in the famous Star Trek universe. It has fascinated many creative minds over the time and it seems that we are about to see an actual, real version of Holodeck. A team from University of Southern California is trying to create a real-life Holodeck.
The project is aptly named ‘Project Holodeck.’ The project is trying to create a real 360 degree, full body virtual reality, much like a true physical 3D gaming experience.
The technology used in the project is very detailed and keeps track of virtually every single movement made by the user. For instance, it tracks head and body movements and button inputs and couples this with vehicular motion and in-place locomotion. The result of such fine gesture-reading is that a player on Holodeck is able to move around in a large virtual space while moving only within a small space in the real world.
To provide head mounted video feedback, the project makes use of Oculus Rift headset. The Rift amplifies the 1280 x 800 resolution on to the two oculi with the help of lenses. This way, the player is able to get a viewing angle of 90-degree horizontally and 105-degree vertically.
For tracking head movements, it utilizes PlayStation Move which feeds date related to head tracking straight into Oculus Rift. It then makes use of the Move motion controller to enhance the size of the play arena.
Body tracking is done through Razer Hydra which is very effective for six-axis tracking. According to the team, “Although the Holodeck will track parts of your body, your hands are still your most important input system and they must be tracked quickly and accurately.”
The most exciting thing is that the player may even get to experience some very real game elements. For instance, if there is wind blowing within the game, this will trigger haptic feedback and fans linked to game server will start blowing much the same way.
To demonstrate a proof-of-concept vision of the whole project, the team has created a game using Unity game engine. In this game, two players play side by side to steer an airship and fight enemy ships. The video posted below shows how accurately the players are able to navigate through their virtual 3D world:
The team believes that the whole experience of the Holodeck can’t be like a regular gaming experience. It has to remain within the domain of arcade gaming since the space required for Holodeck is normally not available within homes.
According to the producer James Iliff, “We see Project Holodeck as more of an arcade experience, because the space required is larger than the average space available in a consumer’s home. We plan on taking this to expos and festivals like Indiecade, Maker Faire, IGF, and others, as well as our own local showcases in Los Angeles like First Move, Demo Day, Other Worlds, etc. We could potentially license our software platform if we wanted to, and we can put together kits with our own custom hardware, but in the long run we also want to reach home users with a simpler consumer system that can fit comfortably in the living room.”
He also seems fairly confident that a number of tech giants would want to be a part of this project, “We’ve been talking to several big names in the industry, including Microsoft and Disney Imagineering, and there are a number of different directions we can go with it – all equally exciting!”
Source: Project Holodeck