“Ten years ago, it seemed like a dream. Now, it feels within reach.”
Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are playing poker together.
No, this isn’t a bad physics joke. It’s a scene from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” It takes place in a holodeck, a simulated-reality room in the fictional Star Trek universe. The three scientists — or at least computer-generated versions of them — have been transported to the 2300s to play cards with Lt. Cmdr. Data.
“I don’t even know why I’m here in the first place,” Newton says.
While the show is set in the future, some scientists and researchers say we could have something like holodecks by 2024. If you have enough money, you could even buy one today, though it would be crude compared to the holodecks on Star Trek.
This is all part of a quest by computer companies, Hollywood and video game makers to move entertainment closer to reality — or at least a computer-generated version of reality. Rather than simply watch movies, the thinking goes, we could become part of the story. We could see people and things moving around our living rooms. The actors could talk to us. Gamers who today slouch on the couch could step inside their games. They could pick up a computer-simulated bat in computer-simulated Yankee Stadium while a computer-simulated crowd roared around them.
“The holodeck is something we’ve been fixated on here for a number of years as a future target experience that would be truly immersive,” said Phil Rogers, a corporate fellow at Advanced Micro Devices, the computer chip maker. “Ten years ago, it seemed like a dream. Now, it feels within reach.”
At A.M.D.’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., Mr. Rogers and his team have built a version of a holodeck. It’s shaped like a dome and is covered with wall-to-wall projectors. The room uses surround sound, augmented reality and other technologies to recreate the real world.
“Eventually, wallpaper will become intelligent and we will paper over our entire living room with intelligent paper, surrounding and immersing ourselves with 3-D images,” said Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist. “Much of this technology already exists, but in crude form.”
How would you walk through these virtual worlds without hitting your bedroom or office wall? The United States Army Research Laboratory has already solved that problem. It has created a floor called an “omnidirectional treadmill” that enables people to seemingly wander around a room while the floor moves and the person stays in place.
This all sounds fun. But it also sounds terrifying to some industries.
The Latest on: Holodeck
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The Latest on: Holodeck
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