Holodecks Could Become a Reality Within the Next Ten Years

Hollywood, computer companies and video game makers have often pursued interesting ways to bring entertainment closer to reality, a pursuit that may head to the next level with the introduction of holodeck-related technologies. Some scientists and researchers now believe that holodecks, which would allow the audience to become a part of the story rather than just passively sitting back and watching it, could become available in some form by 2024. 

“Rather than simply watch movies, the thinking goes, we could become part of the story,” reports The New York Times. “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. “Ten years ago, it seemed like a dream. Now, it feels within reach.”

AMD has already built a version of a dome-shaped holodeck, covered with wall-to-wall projectors, leveraging surround sound and augmented reality.

“Eventually, wallpaper will become intelligent and we will paper over our entire living room with intelligent paper, surrounding and immersing ourselves with 3D images,” said Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist. “Much of this technology already exists, but in crude form.”

To prevent people from walking into their bedroom wall covered with intelligent wallpaper, the United States Army Research Laboratory created an “omnidirectional treadmill” to prevent this problem. This technology allows people to feel like they are wandering around a room, when the floor is actually moving and the person is standing still.

Holodecks have the potential to make traditional TVs and even business travel obsolete as it becomes more available and affordable. It could also change photography because, “rather than buying a coffee-table book, your coffee table might become a giant book,” notes the article.

Numerous early versions of a holodecks exist, including the IllumiRoom and Lightspace projects by Microsoft Research — and CAVE2 created by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago, funded by the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.