Virtual Reality Room Takes One Step Closer to a Real-Life Holodeck

Tuesday, 25 August 2015 - 12:12PM
Virtual Reality
Tuesday, 25 August 2015 - 12:12PM
Virtual Reality Room Takes One Step Closer to a Real-Life Holodeck
In Star Trek, the characters used a virtual reality room called the Holodeck, an enclosed space in which holographic images were projected to create virtual objects, people, and surroundings, allowing the users to interact with an entirely simulated environment. Now, researchers from the University of Michigan have used the Unreal engine to build a small room that creates an interactive virtual reality environment, very much like the Holodeck.



The MIDEN (Michigan Immersive Digital Experience Nexus) is a 10 foot by 10 foot enclosed space that very closely replicates real-life environments using projected computer generated images. According to the researchers, they have upgraded Oculus Rift technology, which was previously the cutting-edge innovation in the field, by incorporating the Unreal graphics engine, which is responsible for visually advanced video games such as Bioshock Infinite and the Mass Effect series.

Using stereo glasses and a game controller, the user can interact with the images, albeit to a limited extent. The room has the ability to track the user's location (let's not talk about how creepy that sounds), so the surrounding images change depending on the user's perspective. The room can replicate many different real-life settings, like a church or a balcony overlooking a cityscape. It can also incorporate natural elements like water, foliage, glass, fire, and day-to-night transitions.

The researchers said in a university statement:

Opening quote
Incorporating the Unreal Engine into a space like the MIDEN allows visitors to experience an intense level of realism never before achieved in this sort of environment, opening new doors not just for gamers, but for those seeking high quality visualizations for research and exploration. Unreal Engine brings a wide range of materials and visual effects to any scene.
Closing quote


If taken to its logical conclusion, this technology could lead to an entire virtual world indistinguishable from reality. Beyond the Holodeck, it reminds me of The Veldt, the Ray Bradbury story in which children become fixated on a virtual reality room and ultimately murder their parents by commanding virtual lions to eat them. We're probably not in danger of virtual reality becoming corporeal anytime soon, but the closer VR gets to replicating real life, the more we're in danger of the plot of The Matrix becoming a real possibility.

Via Popular Science.
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