University research dollars poured into developing a Holodeck


It may seem like this would be an early April Fool’s joke, but the image above shows serious research in action. [Ben Lang] recently had the chance to interview the director of a program that wants to make the Holodeck a reality. The core goal of the research — called Project Holodeck — is to develop an affordable multi-player virtual reality experience outside of the laboratory. We’ve heard speculation that Sony and Microsoft will release their next-gen systems in 2013; we’d rather wait for this to hit the market.

[Nathan Burba] is the director of the program. It’s part of the University of Southern California Games Institute and brings together students of Interactive Media, Cinema Arts, and Engineering. The hardware worn by each player is shown off at the beginning of the video after the break. Most of the components are commercially available (a Lenovo laptop worn in the backpack, PlayStation controllers, etc.) but the stereoscopic display which gives each eye its own 90-degree view was developed specifically for the project.

After seeing the in-game rendered footage we can’t help but think of playing some Minecraft with this equipment. We just need some type of omni-directional treadmill because our living room floor space is very limited.


  1. Hack Man says:

    but the stereoscopic display which gives each eye its own 90-degree view was developed specifically for the project.

    ….. because it’s an Oculus Rift?

  2. Chris says:

    Playing minecraft like this would suddently make creeepers alot more terrifying

  3. Zee says:

    I would add a Kinect for limb tracking that they’re talking about.

  4. sean says:

    Or instead of an expensive omni-directional treadmill you could use a little bit less expensive giant hamster ball.

  5. Shawn says:

    Would be neat to rent/buy a large warehouse & fill it with custom terrain/objects. then map it out. You could then run around without the need for a ODT & You could texture it to be a ton of gametypes. Halo, HL2, etc.

  6. Addam says:

    That is more like it now hurry up and get it on the market.

    I can think of a expensive but very impressive way to solve the moment problem. Strap a robotic arm to each foot and have it simulate the terrain using force feedback.

  7. geekmaster says:

    Here is the MTBS3D thread in which that video above was discussed:

  8. Andrés says:

    Check out JanVR’s hands-free, omnidirectional locomotion prototype. I really think it’s the most promising solution for affordable home use:

  9. roboman2444 says:

    Instead of using some of the sony lollipops, they should use higher quality infrared tracking cameras. Just watch John Carmacks 2012 quakecon keynote.

  10. Steven says:

    Umm… since no holography is being used here, I wouldn’t call it a holodeck. i’d call it immersive virtual reality. But that’s just me.

  11. andar_b says:

    One of the major immersion breakers in Minecraft is the lack of well-simulated sound. Sure, everything is blocky but when you hear a zombie that sounds like it’s in your head, but is actually down the stairs and around the corner, through 20 feet of rock, it makes using one’s ears virtually useless.

    IIRC there are a couple of mods that add proper sound dampening based on range and various materials between the source and the listener, but it doesn’t work with many other mods.

    Perhaps that’s just me, though. My sense of hearing is quite acute, I can detect when someone comes in the room based on how the ‘sound of the room’ changes. I can also use a crude sort of echolocation if I can’t see, though it is only so useful.

    • john says:

      > I can detect when someone comes in the room based on how the ‘sound of the room’ changes

      Uh yeah, it’s called them making footsteps and other sounds.

      A better way of finding out if your hearing is acute is seeing how much high-frequencies you can hear emitting from electronics or just get a hearing test of some sort.

      • kaidenshi says:

        Actually it’s a pretty common phenomenon. The “feeling that someone is behind me” is a natural thing, going back to our evolutionary roots. Sounds we don’t realize we hear, that our brain considers background noise, change subtly when there’s a large object causing the sound waves to travel at different speeds than they had been. The brain picks up on those changes even if we don’t consciously “hear” them, and alerts us that something is not quite right. It’s a survival thing that hasn’t quite been bred out of us lazy, top-of-the-foodchain humans just yet.

  12. rasz says:

    as I said on YT:
    “There isnt a lot of difference between this clip and VFX-1 Descent demo from 1999. If anything it is a lot bulkier because of all the added tracking gear.”

    They are using off the shelf tracking/input devices (sony+razer) so they can cut hardware development time and concentrate on software. But all they deliver is this 1984 pseudo 3D jerky LOLworthy world? It looks like ELITE on C64.
    Like someone already mentioned time would be better spend integrating VR into Minecraft.

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