Future Tech: Holodeck simulations

Will we get even closer to virtual reality? T3 investigates...

Future questions answered, definitively

We’ve all been waiting for certain tech to be invented and, largely thanks to Hollywood, our hopes have been built and built but constantly dashed. So fed up without any actual answers, we’ve took it upon ourselves to answer 10 of the classic tech questions once and for all.

We've already eaxmined the such visionary subjects as flying cars, robots in the home and pills giving us extra brain power. T3 now turns its attention to: Holodeck simulations

What are holodeck simulations

Imagine combining the technology in Kinect, Second Life and immersive 3D displays. That's virtual reality, and it's so close you could almost reach out and touch it.

What's happening right now?

Researchers are already hacking Kinect and using it in lab-based VR. “Recently we did a virtual reality demonstration for an acting rehearsal,” says Mel Slater, professor of virtual environments at University College London. “One actor was in London, the other was in Barcelona.” Elsewhere, the Parachute Training School at RAF Brize Norton recently opened a training simulator in which crewmen wearing VR goggles practise jumps from the safety of a mocked-up harness.
In the near future, you could be feeding a ball through to Lionel Messi on a virtual pitch or (actually) ducking bullets in a (genuine) first-person shooter. Beyond gaming, there are applications in virtual tourism and video conferencing - not to mention long-distance relationships.

What's the hold up?

There isn't one, really. Although the first virtual reality 'caves' are not likely to be much like the holo-deck from Star Trek. “The biggest hurdle left is haptics [referring to a sense of touch]. Right now in VR you can set things up to get some kind of haptic feedback on your fingertips or you wear a special suit or accessory but it's not very compelling. If you're in a virtual space and your elbow accidentally brushes against something, you feel nothing.” Maybe hold fire on that long-distance relationship.

When could we see it?

Slater says that with investment, the first immersive VR destinations will be accepting visitors in three to five years. Getting a grope while you're in there is going to take decades.

Timeline: 2018

Stay tuned to T3.com for more future tech questions answered

- Future Tech: Robots entering the home

- Future Tech: Will we ever see driverless cars?

- Future Tech: Will we ever see a flying car?

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- Future Tech: Smart pills: Brain power by tablets?