IDEO Takes a Spin Inside a Real-life Holodeck

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The hunt is on, to create a real-life Holodeck, and IDEO's designers just got a spin inside one of the leading offerings: The iCube, created by EON Reality. It is a room, measuring 10 feet by 10 feet by 10 feet, that has stereoscopic images projected onto three walls and the floor, care of high-definition projectors. To experience it, you slip on headgear that displays the pictures in 3-D. As you walk around, IR sensors track your movement and the projections move with you.  Here's a video of the assembly at work:

It looks ideally suited for gamers--imagine Halo in 3-D virtual reality!--but gaming applications haven't been tapped yet, due to cost. The iCube runs a cool $500,000, but VR "caves" can run into millions. Adapting graphics for 3-D projections is another, arduous task. So you'd basically have to be Sergey Brin to get one of these in your living room. Or you can wait, since processing and projector prices have already fallen tenfold since caves were first invented, several years ago. The real applications so far have been in marketing--designing virtual environments for trade shows and museums--and science.  

As we wrote here, one of the leading practitioners in this field is JoAnn Kuchera-Morin. "Imagine if a team of physicists could stand inside an atom and watch and hear electrons spin," says Kuchera-Morin. "Imagine if a team of surgeons could fly into the brain and see tissues as landscapes and hear blood density as music." She and her team created the Allosphere, a three-story high metal sphere. Inside the sphere data--from MRI scans to models of a hydrogen atom--can be projected.

Armed with 3-D models of anything from chemical reactions to electron spin, scientists can literally step inside their data, allowing them to discern patterns they may have been overlooking. For example: Molecular scientists at the University of California are working with virtual reality engineers, to create life-sized, virtual models of protein folding. The idea is that with better physical intuition for the process, they'll be able to generate more profound insights. 

The Holodeck  is finally here--and surprise! It's really useful. 

Related: Inside the Virtual Brain
Related: The Fast Company 50 - #10 Ideo

[Via PSFK]

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5 Comments

  • ennyjohn

     There is amazing 3d technology used with the help of different 3d images.  It looks great suited for gamers.

  • David Brown

    This is really cool stuff, but unfortunately, it is not new. iCUBE is just another version of a CAVE invented in 1992 by Electronic Visualization Laboratory at the University of Illinois. The U.S. Army and many automobile companies have been using the technology for the last 10 years. The only thing possibly new is the use of PCs instead of highend graphics computers and even that is not new. For more information look up "CAVE Automatic Virtual Environment" on Wikipedia.

  • Cliff Kuang

    @Rich---Thanks for reading and thanks for the info. I think the big difference is that these caves track your movement and respond to it in real time, as opposed to being just static (albeit immersive). In person, these things are a whole step up in terms of "wow" factor. But I'm thinking that eventually, when the cost comes down to 1/3 in a couple years or so, we'll see applications of this tech all over the place--virtual golf courses, for example, might become commonplace in swank resorts

    @Ariel---Glad to be of service! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • rich white

    Very much like the mobile immersive learning lab (though MILL is very low cost) with Edusim :) for the little ones

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