141: How to Build a Holodeck

How to Build a Holodeck

"While we have access to holograms, they are often simplistic, without definition and realism. In addition, even if we could easily produce true-to-life holograms, we can't create force fields capable of forming light into a solid shape. No, we're going to have to get creative. We need to recreate the experience while staying grounded in reality. To do this, we'll have to cherry pick from currently existing and upcoming tech."

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Interesting read and like anyone else whose seen Star Trek it's definitely a fantasy worth going for.

Still, I'm kinda reminded of the guy in 'Snow Crash' who was hooked up to the giant suit that made everything in the VR world feel real. There's still always going to be that hitch in your mind, that sensation of being synthetic. At this point...wouldn't it be easier to just go the 'Nueromancer' route and make a plug in my brain?

Yea, i think it would. They have these neural interface devices that strap around your forehead and your neck. They interpret the electrical signals from your brain as data and code. These things could very easily allow you to move freely without going anywhere. And, with virtual goggles, prefect-fidelity images, and enhanced digital images, you could easilysee everything realistically. Sound and smell are covered, air fresheners have been around for years, and they're working on a machine that can not only receive electric signals from the brain, but actually send them as well. If they perfect something like that, people could implant those in their spines. Those things could provide all the senses. One of those could easily recreate movement, feel, touch, smell, sound, and every other sense virtually. And, I think that those would be a lot cheaper than a full sized holodeck, although something might go wrong in the first few procedures. But then again, no procedure was perfect the first time it was tried.

Smaller size does not necessarily equal smaller cost, nor ease of implementation. The components required to interpolate and process brain waves are still top of the line, and extremely expensive. Furthermore, this method would almost certainly require a direct connection to your brain (since the skull is good at what it does). And with that, you introduce a whole slew of medical testing and safety restrictions and procedures. Furthermore, processing EEG signals is still an extremely difficult process - signals that small tend to suffer heavily from noise interference. But I'm getting technical here.

I feel the Holodeck, as a room, will come about first. Testing devices that don't have the potential to kill the test subject tend to be far less complicated and extensive. Not to mention working with known computer models for the sensory organs versus directly with the human brain should prove to be a bit easier for programmers. Just my two cents on the idea.

i'm just speculating, but couldn't one walk on a sea of moving catoms? then removing the need for a big ball to walk on. further, can said catoms be made to vibrate like real objects and make sound the "old-fashioned" way? so surround sound is also a moot-point.

the one thing lacking in my opinion is light sources... as a person walks around a virtual environment, lights (say from the sun) move relative to them.

There could be a "sea of catoms," as you say, but I was trying to create the first version of the tech that could be, in which syncing billions of molecular robots with a person's movement would be far more difficult than a moving platform underfoot.

As for the speakers, while they would make sound in the room, what about the sound of the wind rushing through the nearby trees, or the ocean in the distance? How about gunfire on the other side of a building or...well, you get the idea. A complete sound immersion would not work without a sound system involved.

Very interesting article. I myself have pondered over this very concept many, many times. Something akin to the holodeck would be amazing for gaming and all interactcive media. The one problem in particular that will be quite a hassle to overcome, however, will be the problem of the running jump that ends in grasping a ledge. You can do this in many games (Prince of Persia, Assassin's Creed, the 3D Zelda games), but to do this with real-time physical actions would be quite difficult. The moment you jump, for example, you'd leave the multi-directional treadmill. Some kind of rig that would hold your body in place might solve this, but you may lose the feeling of launching forward. Plus, the ledge that one would have to grab and pull themselves up on would be another daunting feat to overcome. Some crazy kind of haptic motor technology similar to the Novint Falcon or something may solve this, or catoms may provide the answer. Regardless, it would be quite the challenge. Hit detection and being "knocked over" would be another challenge, but I'll stop there.

I would love to see this technology in my lifetime as well (a VR type gaming scenario has always been a childhood dream of mine), but these hurdles are gonna be quite tough. Hopefully the bright minds of entertainment and technology will untie these cognitive knots. =)

I agree that it would be a problem, and wouldn't likely be overcome for a few generations of the tech. I imagine the best kinds of games for these would be FPSes. Imagine Doom 3 in one of these rigs. Oh yes, there would be changing of many pants.

I don't know about the smells part. Try to remember just how many rotting corpses you stumbled upon in HL2.

In terms of smells, I would imagine that you could have some kind of slider akin to the sliders found in option menus for music and sound effects. Then it would be up to the player whether or not they want the smells (and how intense those smells should be). But the option for smells should not be removed in my opinion. After all, if you hinder one of the senses, then it stops being like the holodeck.

JPLC:
In terms of smells, I would imagine that you could have some kind of slider akin to the sliders found in option menus for music and sound effects. Then it would be up to the player whether or not they want the smells (and how intense those smells should be). But the option for smells should not be removed in my opinion. After all, if you hinder one of the senses, then it stops being like the holodeck.

The trouble comes, however, when you try and do a more open-world based VR a la Morrowind. Imagine how many different smells there are to be had in Morrowind (and in any combination). The whiff of smoke from a fireball whilst stranded in the middle of a rotting swamp. The scent of dozens of different potions mixing together up your nostrils. You'd need one hell of a slide in order to pull that off.

Obviously, it'll be years before we do free-roaming VR, but it's an interesting problem to overcome.

If I'm not mistaken, the holodecks in Star Trek didn't have limitless movement - they supposedly just redirected your movement and changed scenery to give the impression that the area was larger than the holodeck space. But that's just my fuzzy memory :)

In the pilot of Star Trek: TNG, that is true, they didn't have limitless movement, as demonstrated by Riker tossing a stone through the air and hitting an invisible wall. Later on, there were upgrades to make the space appear more infinite. As a demonstration, tossing the rock would have resulted in the rock being detected as inanimate, recreated as a background hologram, while the other holographic rock would have been removed from the space.

Of course, as for movement of people, in TNG they all walked on invisible tractor beam floors that worked much in the same way as the infinite 360 floor in my article. Of course, tractor beams don't exist, and are unlikely to say the least, so I was looking for a practical alternative.

A full FAQ on holodecks (which, geekery aside, is fascinating) is available here: http://www.calormen.com/Star_Trek/FAQs/holodeck-faq.htm

One of the things I found there was a mention of how the matter on the holodecks is created:

Voyager's explanation is actually the best yet; it works the best for explaining all the old questions about holo-matter from TNG. Apparently, matter on the Holodeck has the potential to be as detailed as real matter down to the level of molecular resolution. Instead of being composed of molecules, full-resolution holo-objects are composed of molecule-sized magnetic bubbles which can be individually manipulated through three dimensions by the computer.

Strangely similar to the catoms, no?

Tom_Rhodes:
I agree that it would be a problem, and wouldn't likely be overcome for a few generations of the tech. I imagine the best kinds of games for these would be FPSes. Imagine Doom 3 in one of these rigs. Oh yes, there would be changing of many pants.

As has been mentioned the last time we had an article on virtual reality, there's some physical fitness implied in a full-VR system that isn't implied by current games (Wii and DDR are as far as we go currently). Couch potatoes aren't going to become Samus Aran any time soon.

incoherent:
Couch potatoes aren't going to become Samus Aran any time soon.

Ah, but if true VR gaming were ever accomplished, I think there would be more than enough incentive for one to seriously attempt "becoming Samus Aran". Speaking for myself, anyway, I know that if there were some kind of full VR game in which I could actually go on a space-faring adventure, or slay dragons or the like, I'd be more than happy to train to become better at the game. The promise of living out these adventurous fantasies would override my usual disdain for working out as the reason for my exercise would be not just to stay fit, but to become a better "bounty hunter" or something. Yes, it's fantasy, but it's better than working out and then doing nothing really substantial with your newfound health besides living longer (and I find sports dull; an "adventure" would entice me much more). Maybe that's just me. I'd like to hope that some people share my mindset on this, though. After all, "healthy" and "gamer" are words that don't necessarily have to be seperate forever. =P

Tom Rhodes:
How to Build a Holodeck

"While we have access to holograms, they are often simplistic, without definition and realism. In addition, even if we could easily produce true-to-life holograms, we can't create force fields capable of forming light into a solid shape. No, we're going to have to get creative. We need to recreate the experience while staying grounded in reality. To do this, we'll have to cherry pick from currently existing and upcoming tech."

Read Full Article

While each of these systems is a great little invention, I feel the only way to create a fully interactive virtual environment with no boundaries and maximum feedback is to combine the Matrix-esque virtual world with Jame's Cameron's Avatar program. Think about:

- you can go as far as you've set the program
- you get full control of your avatar because your brain is linked into it.
- multiple people can be in the same environment at once without the issue of walking into the walls that a holodeck would have
- power output would be way less than forcing photons to bend to your will
- feedback would be the same as doing it in real life
- you can play around with the rules and laws of the universe (.ie modding)
- and as it is just signals being sent to your nervous system you'll never be in danger of hurting yourself or dying like in the Matrix (aside from maybe feeling pain, but again modding can solve that)

While granted we're a bit off of being able to fully do that, scientists are even now being able to map what each brain signal does, and with nanotechnology giving 1:1 feedback, we'll soon be able to do anything that we put our minds to!

Lol this thread makes me laugh. I'm an AV engineer. A rudimentary holodeck is easily achievable with the combination of popular hardware. Which I have tried, great fun.

 

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