Seventeen years weren’t long enough to help us admit: the virtual holodeck is, at this time, impossible. That much we should have learned from the 90s release of Nintendo’s Virtual Boy; that the idea of a holodeck — of complete fantastic immersion — becomes implausible the moment you strap a monitor to your face.
So what was it these cinematic arts and engineering students from the University of Southern California were thinking when they announced Project Holodeck? And, let’s face it, the Oculus Rift is a step towards immersive gaming, but it won’t beat the fictional Star Trek Holodeck. A virtual reality gaming platform is an oxymoron.
Our cultures applauds ingenuity. The way these students use existing technologies including the Razer Hydra, PlayStation Move and the Unity 3D game engine to provide us with a tangible concept is thrilling, simply because they’ve resurrected the conversation about holodecks and how it could work.
The Oculus Rift takes it a bit further, with what looks like a viable product.
But it won’t work as a Holodeck. See the clip above and you’ll see college men flail, blindfolded. Only $500, the team’s website states. The Rift will run you back about the price of a new Playstation 3.
The idea is improbable because there’s too much that take away from your “immersion.” You’d need an omnidirectional treadmill to prevent you from walking into walls and oversized googles for this to work. No matter how far Moore’s law has pushed technology in these past two decades, the holodeck as a tangible dream machine still eludes us. But the idea is stirring.