One of the wonderful additions to the Star Trek universe that The Next Generation introduced was the holodeck. The holodeck was a fully interactive, immersive, full sensory experience where the user can run programs from reenactments of Private Eye detective stories to nature walks and combat training simulations. Just imagine it: You step into a room, give the instruction to run “Program X”, and you could be anyone, anywhere, anytime. Like so much other Star Trek tech, holodeck-like technology may be reality sooner rather than later. The latest episode in The Verge’s video series about technology Microsoft is developing at its Redmond labs is a “mind-bending look at a suite of technologies that Microsoft is developing to create a holodeck-like experience.”
The video was taken when The Verge’s Joshua Topolsky toured the Redmond facilities, which is where Microsoft has been working on a wide array of technology from a slick future version of Office to 3D modeling via the Kinect.
Here’s how Microsoft’s applied science lab’s director of research, Stevie Bathiche, describes the holodeck-type technology they are working on thusly:
[I]magine a day where in your home, one wall is dedicated to being your magic wall. A wall where it can teleport you to another world without really going anyhere.
There are a variety of ways this could be achieved, including “a system that projects LED light to detect a human being’s movements in space, and a glasses-free stereoscopic display that can be ‘steered’ by the viewer as they move.” It sounds a bit like Star Trek meets the massive televisions in Farenheit 451 and the tech Tom Cruise and Simon Pegg’s characters use in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
As long as society doesn’t go the full Farenheit 451 route when such technology emerges, it could have fantastic educational and entertainment value. It’s still a far cry from the 360°, total experience of the Star Trek holodeck, but it could give us even more immersive video games, stunning travel videos, improved distance learning, and video conferencing that finally delivers on that old cliche “It’s like you’re right here in the room with us!”.