Opinion: Wearables are the key to the holodeck
Picture credit: JDHancock
If you're a bit of a geek like me, then ever since seeing the holodeck in Star Trek you will have dreamed of a room you can walk in and be virtually transported anywhere without the hassle and cost of flights and/or public transport.
Microsoft Research revealed its 'IllumiRoom' project last year and provided us with an exciting look at the future of gaming. Now IllumiRoom is back with a spiritual successor under the new name of 'RoomAlive' and we are inching closer to their vision allowing our dreams to come true.
RoomAlive projects images to surfaces in a room to create a chosen atmosphere and players can interact with them using similar motion-detection technology to that which powers Kinect. Unlike IllumiRoom, RoomAlive doesn't even require a TV.
This means it's not just gaming which could benefit. How about being able to hold your next board meeting on a beach in Hawaii, or on the moon, or somewhere else a little bit more interesting than your office? Imagine being able to control manufacturing machines, or allowing field experts to perform delicate surgical operations from remote, or provide virtual training from the comfort of your home complete with interactive tasks? The possibilities are endless.
But Kinect has proven how limited the interaction is through motion-detection alone, and wearable VR headsets such as Oculus take up your entire vision which means you must remain in one spot or use large and often impractical hardware such as Omni to prevent walking into walls.
It seems obvious, but it's worth reminding the industry that it will take a combination of wearable and AR technologies to achieve the holodeck dream.
A controller which can mimic natural human hand movement will be vital (although fingers-crossed it will be a bit more advanced than the retro PowerVR glove!) A headset will also be vital, but more in the vain of Glass. Google's work-in-progress headset doesn't obscure your whole vision, and instead projects a 3D object into the space in front of you.
In an ideal set-up; a projector technology such as RoomAlive would provide the atmosphere, a glove would provide the precise control, and a Glass-like headset which allows you to remain aware of your surroundings would provide the objects to interact with
"In the future we will explore approaches and experiences that involve multiple users and multi-user viewpoint rendering," the team that created RoomAlive said. "We will also explore new ways to increase immersion with spatialized sound. RoomAlive provides a glimpse of how a scalable multi-projector system can transform any room into an immersive augmented gaming experience. Many new and exciting possibilities remain to be explored."
What do you think will be "key" to achieving the AR dream? Let us know in the comments.
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