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The Hollow Deck:…Photons Unite!

Anyone who appreciates the ability to experience a fantasy viscerally, as in dreams or becoming part of the landscape created by photons, would revel in the recent announcement by Dvice.com’s Adario Strange on 5/13/08: “Fujitsu unveils Star Trek-like Hollow Deck For Train Conductors.”

This development marks the beginning of practical use of the hollow deck concept, the room with perpendicular grids – so prominent in the Star Trek Universe, creating a tangible reality from illusion – that became the basis of some of the best episodes (see below).

The moment when Scotty, discovered as a survivor in the transporter of the USS Jenolen, having crash-landed on a Dyson Sphere then surviving 75 years by putting his atoms into continuous diagnostic mode in Relics, Ep 230. Drunk on green Aldebaran whisky, he enters the hollow deck to a recreation of the bridge of his beloved Enterprise 1701, Constitution Class. A fantasy creating a reality that was in fact just another fantasy in the past, of a proposed alternate reality.

holodeck2.jpgThe hollow deck of Star Trek created an interactive environment and according to Wikipedia, “was depicted as an enclosed room in which objects and people are simulated by a combination of replicated matter, tractor beams, and shaped force fields onto which holographic images are projected. Sounds and smells are simulated by speakers and fragrance fluid atomizers, respectively. The feel of a large environment is simulated by suspending the participants on force fields which move with their feet, keeping them from reaching the walls of the room via a treadmill effect. Perspective, retained through use of sound damping fields and graviton lenses, which make objects, people, and sounds appear to be more distant. The effect is an ultra-realistic simulation of an environment, with which the user can interact.”

Now we have Fujitsu Limited, building on technology developed in conjunction with Ongakukan Col, Ltd, which “unveiled the world’s first full scale Train Simulation System using high definition video. The system is designed to offer trainees real-time feedback using HD video taken from the Japanese rail system. This system also uses a complex mix of computer graphics, sound effects, and other multimedia input meant to simulate unexpected situations such as earthquakes or power blackouts. Commercial versions are being offered to large vendors for 30 million yen ($290,000), but in the future Fujitsu also hopes to roll out other versions for amusement parks and museums.”

Although not the hollow deck of the Enterprise, a first step has been made onto its evolution path. The very place where Dixon Hill, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty existed as a computer generated phantasy.

Perhaps it’s time to leave one fantasy world for another.

“Computer, end program…”

Some Episodes that featured the Hollow Deck as a main theme:
The Big Goodbye, Elementary, Dear Data, Hollow Pursuits, Relics, Ship In A Bottle, Emergence, A Fistful Of Data’s