Looks like Roblox is going to be the first to build the Holodeck — here's why

Roblox on PC
(Image credit: Miguel Lagoa/Shutterstock)

In the last 50 years, the video gaming industry has gone from producing Pac-Man and Mario to hyper-realistic and high-budget blockbusters like The Witcher 3, Elden Ring, and The Last of Us 2. 

By combining art with cutting-edge tech, these titles have redefined our concept of gaming, bringing it further mainstream. But there’s still one piece left to the puzzle — moving away from scripted video game interactions to dynamic and spontaneous ones.

With its new suite of AI-powered creator tools, Roblox is trying to decode the 4th dimension of game development — interaction.

Unsurprisingly, more than a few modern games have gone out of their way to promise a lived-in world where you can make your own decisions. This is similar to the idea of the Holodeck in Star Trek, but on a flat screen or in a VR environment.

Current approaches range from multiplayer survival games that refuse to offer you a fixed goal, to layered roleplaying titles with different dialogue options and alternate pathways to approach a scenario.

But none have been able to simulate the experience of having true autonomy in a virtual world. The idea, first conceived by Gene Roddenberry for Star Trek’s “holodeck” (first appearance in The Practical Joker, a 1974 episode of the animated series), has eluded developers for good.

Roblox, the online multiplayer game that’s more of a shared virtual universe, thinks that the solution could be found in generative AI. With its new suite of AI-powered creator tools, Roblox is trying to decode the 4th dimension of game development — interaction.

What are Roblox doing in 4D?

Roblox is building AI tools to generate functional cars and worlds

Roblox is building AI tools to generate functional cars and worlds (Image credit: Roblox)

if successful, Roblox AI tools would allow regular creators, with little to no coding experience, to generate spontaneous lifelike gaming experiences right inside Roblox.

Right now, AI can only think in three dimensions of static content — text, images, and 3D models. But, Roblox wants to teach AI to produce 4D content that interacts seamlessly with the game environment. That means going beyond superficial 3D models to create replicas of objects as they exist in reality.

Let’s say that you want to build the model of a race car. Right now, Roblox’s AI can only generate a 3D model that looks like a race car from the outside. But with the new improvements, it would be able to build a more accurate model that “has an engine, moveable parts and a physics rig that enables it to drive down a track — all generated with just a text or voice prompt,” says David Baszucki, founder of Roblox.

So far, the reaction has been mixed. While some users have lauded Roblox for trying to make accessible game design more powerful through AI, others think that an over-reliance on machines could kill creativity and undermine human developers who have spent years learning the craft.

But the bigger question of whether AI will be able to assist in creating authentic virtual world experiences that rival real life, still remains to be answered.

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Ritoban Mukherjee

Ritoban Mukherjee is a freelance journalist from West Bengal, India whose work on cloud storage, web hosting, and a range of other topics has been published on Tom's Guide, TechRadar, Creative Bloq, IT Pro, Gizmodo, Medium, and Mental Floss.