NOTE: A holodeck is “A room that provides holographic simulations for recreation, training, etc.,” according to dictionary.com.Microsoft patent application number 20120223885, as filed in 2011, relates to an "immersive display experience." It describes a system for bringing console gaming out from the television screen and into the real world. The humble television set would still show the game's main visuals, but a "peripheral image" would be displayed onto all four walls of the room being used. The game's environment would then surround the player with a depth-sensing camera system (Kinect is already capable of this) tracking the player's position so that they can, for example, "turn around and observe an enemy sneaking up from behind."
In Star Trek, the holodecks are enclosed rooms in which environments, objects, and people are displayed as though they were real. Microsoft appears to be planning something similar. Obviously, this will allow for creation of some great computer games. However, I have to believe there will be many other applications as well. Science classes will be able to "fly through" a compound's molecular structure. Surgeons can use micro-miniature television cameras to peer inside a person's body (this is already being done today in non-hologram applications) and to "fly through" the body looking for medical problems.
History classes could experience a new sense of reality by displaying computer-generated recreations of ancient Rome or Revolutionary War sea battles involving sailing ships. (Ancient Rome is already available as a computer-generated virtual time machine at http://www.romereborn.virginia.edu/.)
Now, let's fast forward a few more years. Once the major historical objectives have been met, decreasing costs will probably allow us to recreate events and locations of personal interest. Why not a computer re-creation of your ancestral village? or great-grandfather's farm? Since you probably will already have holodeck hardware in your living room for playing games, the same equipment could be used to project science classes, history classes, or your ancestors' homes. Why not project computer-generated images of people as well?
Deceased rappers Tupac Shakur and Nate Dogg recently "performed" as holograms on-stage as part of Dr. Dre’s set at the Coachella music festival. Video recordings of the dead rappers were projected as holograms. Of course, any video source could be projected: a computer-generated image should work just as well as a video image recorded some years ago. I am not sure how realistic the image of great-great-grandmother will be although I am sure graphics engineers could easily create an image of a "typical" resident of her time and place. Each "resident" could be displayed wearing clothing that is correct for the time and locations of interest. Perhaps an old photograph can be used to generate a multi-dimensional version of an ancestor along with clothing and furnishings of their own time.
At some time in the future, you will probably be able to not only view these hologram images of computer-generated "actors" but to even interact with them.
All this will obviously not happen this year or next. However, all the required technology exists today. Admittedly, prices are quite high today but we all know what has happened to computer prices over the past 30 years or so. Microsoft already plans to place the required hardware in living rooms around the world at consumer prices, probably within a decade or so. I have no doubt that genealogy and historical applications will follow soon behind, well within the lifetimes of many people living today. I think this will be exciting family history!
You can read a bit more about Microsoft's plans for holodecks on the GizMag.com web site at http://goo.gl/kihG4 although that article only talks about computer games, not about other applications.
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