"Why Don't We Have" is a PopMech series explaining just why some of the technologies promised by science fiction have yet to become fact. Today: the Holodeck.
By Rachel Feltman
In one of the classic Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, "The Big Goodbye," Captain Picard dons a fedora as 1940s sleuth Dixon Hill. Picard found a brief escape from life on the Enterprise by way of the Holodeck, a fully immersive virtual-reality room that allowed crew members to live out any fantasy they could dream up during recreation hours.
We know we're a long way from developing Star Trek's transporter or warp drive, but what about hyperimmersive holographic rec rooms? High-resolution, 360-degree screens are becoming a reality, though they may feel more Fahrenheit 451 than Star Trek.
Google's latest invention, the augmented reality (AR) eyewear known simply as Glass, is not even on the market, yet along with excitement over this possible glimpse into the future, Glass is also causing controversy. It's become the focus of aStop the Cyborgs campaign, spawned proposed legislation in the US state of West Virginia that bans its use while driving, and is device non grata at one bar in Seattle.
Dubbed Glass Explorers, 8,000 American beta users who have been given Google Glass are about to embark on an experiment documenting what Glass can and can't do; the reactions and results generated will determine its future. Until now only a select few Google employees (including co-founder Sergey Brin) have sported Glass in public, mainly eliciting curiosity. But outside the tech-friendly environs of Silicon Valley and New York, Glass Explorers are sure to get different receptions
STEP into the labyrinth. Imagine physically wandering through the many rooms and corridors of an endless maze, never seeing the same place twice – but without actually leaving your living room.
This is the promise of a new virtual reality (VR) system. It works by tracking the body and head movements of a person wearing a VR headset and guides them through endless sets of virtual spaces as they pace around within a real physical space. The trick is that, in the virtual world, the corridors and rooms are generated automatically as the walker moves to always fit inside the real space available. There is potentially no end to the environment, just like a huge video game.