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Two Technologies to Make the Holodeck Real

Two systems developed independently promise to make the holodeck more feasible, by creating the illusion of unlimited space and simulating different kinds of surfaces, respectively.

Star Trek’s Holodeck simulated practically any imaginable environment. It used realistic holograms—the kind you could touch, talk to, eat, or even sleep with—to create the most immersive entertainment ever. Normally, a holodeck room would be large, but not spacious enough to allow the user to run for say, a hundred meters without any special kind of technology.

That’s where the first system comes in. The Cyberwalk is basically a two-way treadmill, the result of a Italian-German collaboration. An array of small treadmills are all attached to a larger one, providing continuous movement into two dimensions. It’s currently used to let virtual reality (VR) users walk any which way, with computers tracking the user’s movement and adjusting the speed of the belts to keep him in the middle.

The Holodeck is also capable of simulating any locale stored in the massive historical record of Starfleet. Different areas call for different surfaces, which is where haptic floor tiling comes in. This system, under development at McGill University in Canada, is primarily a malleable plate mounted on a platform, with sensors for detecting the user feet in between. The secret sauce? Using vibrations to simulate the feel of different surfaces, like sand or marble. Courtesy of the sensors, the floor tiling also doubles as a giant touch-screen interface.

Details for both projects are through the links below. Now that we can simulate various surfaces and let VR users walk (or even run?) all day, all we need are those realistic holograms. Any news on that front? If so, feel free to hit the comments.

CyberWalk: Giant Omni-Directional Treadmill To Explore Virtual Worlds
Augmented-Reality Floor Tiling

  • daworstplaya
    A TV + treadmill = holodeck, nice! ... well I guess the 1st steps into this technology is going to be clunky and massive.
  • mlopinto2k1
    Wa Wa Wee Wa!!! That would be really intense. I would live on the Holodeck. No need to work, or talk to anyone after having one of those nifty devices!
  • dman3k
    I will be a fine member of the Holodeck Addict Anonymous
  • garpizzle
    Put this inside of a Micoy Dome and you might have found the ancestor to the Star Trek Holodeck.
  • Hilarion
    Oh, great show....
    Keep working on it....
  • perpetual98
    That makes me tired just thinking about running from Northshire Abbey to face Hogger...
  • shin0bi272
    Now we just need 5 large rear projection screens for the walls and some cold plasma force fields with electromagnetic shaping and we'll be set.
  • maestintaolius
    back_by_demandArthur C Clarke is credited with inventing the communications satellite, even though he didnt build it he came up with the idea.In years to come, will Gene Roddenberry be credited with the invention of holodecks? Transporters? Warp drive?Why not go the whole hog and credit Roddenberry with inventing the iPad, he certainly deserves the credit for floating the inspiration.Not to mention cellphones looking awfully similar to the old school trek communicators.
  • maigo
    I had this idea when I was 7! And you could walk any direction you wanted!
  • reklatsa
    There was a programme about these on UK TV recently where they showed someone drunkenly walking along the streets of Pompeii. Neat but noisy.

    I can see replacement hips, knee-caps and robotic hands are going to be an area of medicine that will have to be worked on if people are going to start paint-balling their bedroom walls on these things.

    Seriously though, I can finally see an opportunity for indulgent American children to lose weight before they're struck by an MI in their teens.