How Close Are We to Having Star Trek Holodecks?

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

If there’s one thing every science fiction fan wants, it’s a Star Trek holodeck.

For those of you who don’t know, a holodeck is a simulated 3-D environment filled with holograms. In other words, it’s like being inside a movie while watching it. You can also be a character in the story if you’d rather. The holodeck is completely immersive, allowing you to touch, smell, see, taste, and hear the holodeck environment as if it were real.

And we might not be that far away from getting it.

In December 2012, the University of Illinois created CAVE2, a hybrid reality environment that was basically 3-D glasses and a circular wall of high definition television screens. They touted it as the closest we’ve come to the technology seen in Star Trek. You can see the trailer they created for it below.

And while I’ll admit that it looks pretty cool, it’s not the closest we’ve come. That honor goes to a simulator created by The Gadget Show a year earlier.

The hosts built their “holodeck” environment around a first person shooter video game. (In a first person shooter game, the screen already works so that what you see on the screen is supposedly what your “character” in the game sees. You are the character rather than watching a character move from an outside perspective.)

They installed a multi-directional treadmill to allow the player to run, and motion sensors so that when you jump or crouch, the game moves forward in kind. Paintball guns shoot the player when their character in the game is shot. LCD lights, surround-sound speakers, and a wrap-around screen make them feel like they’re right inside the game. It’s not exactly a holodeck, but it’s pretty close. 

The Gadget Show doesn’t allow their videos to be embedded so I can’t share it here. If you’d like to watch the whole thing, you can see it on YouTube: It’s well worth the time.

If you could play a character from one of your favorite books, who would you want to be?

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