I’ve previously discussed how Telepresence is making Teleportation seem closer than ever. But there’s another cool invention, previously available only for Star Trek crew members, that is making its way to our desktop – The Holodeck.
If you are not a Star Trek buff, here’s a brief explanation: “Holodeck,” short for Hologram Deck, is a virtual reality system, evolved sometime in the not-terribly-distant future (the 2360s), which transforms an empty room into a virtual world, including props, characters, background, etc.
The Holodeck is not available for sale (yet), but watching the demo below, by Mitchell Kapor, one of the original investors of Second Life, the famous internet-based 3D virtual world launched in 2003 by Linden Lab, using a 3D camera to control Second Life without the use of a keyboard or a mouse, looks very promising.
The demo uses a 3D camera, designed by 3DV Systems, a very cool Israeli start-up, that developed a camera which senses the distance in real-time between the camera and the objects in its field of view, at a high speed and a high resolution. The camera, as you can see for yourself, is not different than a regular webcam, but enables the user to use their body to control the characters in the virtual game. Yes, you simply jump and your avatar jumps too, run and the avatar runs, turn and the avatar turns with you.
The camera translates motion into movement in a virtual world, such as Second Life. The demo is just a game, but the possibilities for this are huge. Low-priced 3D cameras are on their way, not just for gaming but for corporate use as well.
IBM has just recently announced a partnership with Linden Lab to create enterprise-class versions of Second Life behind the corporate firewall. IBM believes that these secured worlds would be an attractive place for employees to use as a business platform – train employees, conduct meetings, brainstorm and do practically anything they normally do in the real world, only using their avatars and bridging over limitations of distance and time.
Jim Spohrer, director of service research at the IBM Almaden Research Center in San Jose, told VentureBeat that IBM researchers have already built an application that allows employees to hold online collaboration sessions to solve real-world problems. Mitchell Kapor believes that conferences in Second Life would be as close to the real experience as possible. Both sound to me like they are talking about the Holodeck.
In the corporate Holodeck, one can meet, interview and recruit potential candidates, without forcing them to physically travel to the corporate premises (Second Life has already hosted two job fairs); a corporate Holodeck will allow you to hold virtual trade shows, seminars and conferences for potential customers in multiple venues simultaneously and on demand (Unisfair, another of those terribly interesting Israeli start-ups, is already showcasing virtual events like this); You can train your employees on the Holodeck, just like in Star Trek; And, of course, you can have virtual meetings in virtual meeting rooms, where you can communicate, collaborate, and innovate.
So even if you are not a Star Trek fan, the Holodeck may be of interest to you in the up-coming years. If it helped Lieutenant Tasha Yar train in martial arts, help simulate complicated events and medical emergencies, just think about what it can do for the average corporate starship…