When you think of VR gaming, you likely tend to imagine gamers strapped into treadmills with an Oculus Rift over their eyes and wearing all manner of gear. But when we hear the word holodeck, our brains go to a much different place. In a holodeck, users are completely unencumbered and it is the world around them that changes. It's not quite the version you've been dreaming of, but Northrop Grumman's VIPE Holodeck is the closest we've yet come to the Star Trek invention, and it's built with off-the-shelf tech.
VIPE stands for Virtual Immersive Portable Environment, and by that definition Northrop Grumman's holodeck is pretty legit. The VIPE Holodeck is a portable room which soldiers can use to run any number of tailored training exercises. Diplomatic, combat, and even medical training environments can be uploaded, enabling soldiers to train in any aspect of an impending mission. Uniforms and compatible weapons need to be brought in from outside, since we haven't exactly perfected force field tech yet.
Kinect sensors and other cameras allow users to side-step the need for any VR treadmills or wearable sensors. Users are free to walk, crawl, crouch and roll about freely. No matter where you go inside its walls, the VIPE Holodeck has you in its sights. This is wonderful stuff, especially when you consider that Northrop Grumman means for their holodeck to be a constantly improving environment. "If you can think it, we can create it, eventually," states VIPE program manager Ryan Frost. With VR gaming evolving as rapidly as has been over the last couple of years, we'd be hard pressed to disagree with him. Now, if they could at least do something about those seams between the screens, we'd give this sucker a test drive — er, walk.