Who needs a holiday when you’ve got a holodeck?
Virtual reality, the final frontier:
- These are the voyages of future technology.
- Its ongoing mission to explore strange new gizmos.
- To seek out new technology and new toys.
- To boldly go where no gamer has gone before.
Since the creation of the genre, Science fiction has had the power to inspire real life technology of tomorrow’s world. The out-there inventions seen in the movies and on television are often seen to be an impossible dream created by a writer with an over-active imagination, whereas others consider them to be a vision of the distant future. Space travel hasn’t advanced as much as Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick imagined it would in 2001: A Space Odyssey and its sequel 2010. Space travel may be behind, but Sci-fi has set the foundations for future toys and inventions, which could soon be considered science fact.
None more so than the hugely successful television series Star Trek, running since 1966 with 4 different series spin-offs and 11 movies, each one bringing new technological advances to the attention of fans and inventors. One notable Star Trek creation was the Communicators, these small handheld devices allowed crew members to communicate with each other over long distances and also acted as a tracking devices, although not in real life use in 1966 these days we call them Mobile Phones, with GPS.
As well as Communicators, Phasers and “Beam Me Up Scotty” (yes, we know that was never actually said – Ed), the major piece of hardware that wowed audiences when it first appeared (in The Next Generation episode, “Encounter at Far Point”) is the Holographic Environment Simulator or Holodeck for short. The simulation room, no bigger than a tennis court, could simulate any environment or person you wanted it to. The environments were so huge and well portrayed that you couldn’t distinguish the difference between holographic image and reality.
This form of virtual reality was no doubt a necessity on long deep space voyages. An hour in the Holodeck is probably what the doctor ordered to ease the nostalgia, claustrophobia or cabin fever. Even Captain Picard needed an escape into his own personal bliss, which for him involved riding virtual horses. The Holodeck’s small room held no boundaries for the imagination, simulating anything you really desired (yes guys, anything you desire). From playing poker with Isaac Newton to watching an imaginary Baseball game, the Holodeck is literally the room of dreams. The Holodeck was never seen in the original series, but who knows what Kirk would do to virtual green women if he had one on board NCC-1701.
Of course, straining your brain trying to imagine how a small room can be transformed into a giant world can convince you the idea is absurd. There are simply more questions than there are answers, how can the Holodeck create touchable 3D objects? Does water feel wet? Were the floors treadmills? What if two people were in the same simulation and they walked away from each other – wouldn’t they bump into walls? The official Star Trek mythology states that “the Holodeck employed three-dimensional holographic projections as well as transporter-based replications of actual objects.” The easy thing about Sci-Fi is that any answer is plausible because it simply isn’t realistic.