Star Trek's Holodeck

and the Technology of Virtual Reality

Enter the Holodeck

The Holodeck is one of the most recognizable technologies from Star Trek. For many Trekkies, it is a technology that is also the most desirable. In this lesson, we will explore the following:

  1. What is the Holodeck, its origins, and how does it work?
  2. What is virtual reality (VR) and how is it related to the Holodeck?
  3. What technologies do we need to actually create a Holodeck?
  4. What are the technologies that exist today, that can bring us closer to an actual Holodeck?
  5. What are the 3 stages of VR (as I see it) evolution?
  6. VR Concerns.
  7. Hands-on activity

What is the holodeck?

The Holodeck is a holographic environment simulator. In other words its a room that creates a virtual environment, using holograms and force fields, that simulates a virtual reality that is indistinguishable from the real world. The Holodeck can also create virtual characters within this environment. In Star Trek, the Holodeck could be used for any of the following:

  • Recreation- Crew members frequently recreated famous novels and characters such as Sherlock Holmes.
  • Training- The Holodeck can easily create training environments such as battle simulations or hand-to-hand combat scenarios.
  • Exercise- Crew members could simulate a mountain hike or any environment that they could think of. The Holodeck behaved as an infinite space in all directions.

What is Virtual Reality (VR)?

a computer-simulated environment that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world or imagined worlds.

True Virtual Reality give us a feeling of "Immersion."

Immersion occurs when the user of a vr system has the perception/feeling of actually being in a physical place.

THe holodeck Creates a virtual playground for us by immersing us into a non-physical world!

VR Activity

Below is a video of a member of the Star Trek Enterprise (William Riker) entering the Holodeck. Before he enters, he gives the computer a set of parameters so that the computer can generate the Holodeck simulation. Watch this video:

Activity instructions

Take 10 minutes to write up your Holodeck program. Use the video above as a guide. You must tell the computer what to generate by giving it instructions about the following:

  • Place
  • Time (era)
  • Conditions
  • Characters
  • etc.

Use your imagination and create a Holodeck program that you would like to experience. Also, tell us why you chose this program. We will share these in class...

If we wanted to build a Holodeck, what would we need?

When you're thinking about creating a real Holodeck, what features or technologies do we need to create a Holodeck experience?

  1. The ability to create visual projections/images that the user can interact with.
  2. The ability to track user movements and respond and change the images accordingly.
  3. The ability to provide a tactile feedback to the user.
  4. The ability to move in any direction without limit.

What current technologies address these requirements?

1. The ability to create visual projections or images that the user can interact with.

The Cave II

Lowe's Holoroom

Microsoft's Holoroom

Oculus Rift

2. The ability to track user movements and respond and change the images accordingly.

Leap Motion Hand Tracking

Oculus Rift

Sixense Controller

Trinity Magnum

Prio VR Suit

3. The ability to provide a tactile/haptic feedback to the user.

Haptic holopgaphy

Striker VR

4. The ability to move in any direction without limit (omnidirectional movement).



And Many More!

Put all of these technologies together and you get...

The current state of VR Technology

THe 3 stages of VR Evolution

Stage 1 of VR (exists today)

  • VR Headset (Oculus Rift) for image display and head tracking.
  • Controllers to track user hand and body movements.
  • Omnidirectional Treadmills

Stage 2 of VR (The Holodeck):

  • Holographic and force field projections.
  • No awkward gear for the user to wear/carry allowing a more natural experience.
  • Indistinguishable from reality.

Stage 3 of VR (The Matrix):

  • Direct brain-computer-interface (BCI).
  • Any environment can be created or experienced.
  • User can be "uploaded" with new knowledge and skills.
  • No physical technology needed.
  • Indistinguishable from reality.
  • The ultimate form of VR.

VR COncerns


  • Could create sociopaths
  • Desensitized to violence
  • Trauma


  • Too much time in the virtual world and foregoing the real world

Virtual Crime

  • Is a crime committed in VR a real crime?
  • Should it be regulated?

Enough talk- Let's experience Virtual Reality!

Hands-0n Activity

Our hands-on activity will be building a Google Cardboard VR Headset. This will allow us to use our smartphones to experience a basic virtual reality. The headset in the video above came precut and assembled. We, however, will be building one from scratch! Here is the link to Google's page with detailed instructions for building your own headset from cardboard and other components: Click Here.

Here is what I suggest for materials

  1. Use scrap cardboard from around the house or get a discarded box from your local grocery store. You will also need to download cardboard design files to cut your cardboard from the Google website above.
  2. The other parts can be purchased from a website called Unofficial Cardboard here. They provide fully assembled kits at a reasonable price as well.

These are currently the only phones that are compatible with Google Cardboard:

  • Fully compatible
    • Google Nexus 4 and 5
    • Motorola Moto X
    • Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5
    • Samsung Galaxy Nexus
  • Partially compatible
    • Magnetic input not working
      • HTC One
      • Motorola Moto G
    • Magnetic input not working & headtracking/rendering issues
      • Samsung Galaxy S3

The Apple iPhone may be compatible but you will have to research that option.

After you complete your headset you can download the Google Cardboard app from the Google Play store for free and begin your VR experience! I will also post links to compatible apps as I discover them.

Have Fun and be sure to explore the technologies of Virtual Reality further!

Comment Stream

3 years ago

Awesome lesson!!