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Progress in Creating Star Trek's Holodeck

If you are a fan of the science fiction Star Trek series, then you are familiar with the Holodeck. It is a virtual reality in which Star Trek characters can interact with virtual people and environments. A person in the Holodeck “room” can move around, interacting with the environment, and talking and interacting with the virtual and “real” people in the room. For example, in one Star Trek episode set nearly 300 years in the future, Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein, and Steven Hawking join the Star Trek character Lt. Commander Data in a bridge game. The computer-generated Newton, Einstein, and Hawking appear to be just as “real” as if they were alive 300 years in the future.

Today’s computer games in which a player can be represented by an Avatar and interacts with computer-generated characters is a step toward a Holodeck. Computer simulations, such as those used to help train airplane and spaceship pilots, provide excellent examples of current applications of virtual reality in education.

The various “cave-like” virtual reality systems that have been developed in recent years are another step toward a Holodeck. An article by Nick Bilton (1/26/2014), The Holodeck Begins to Take Shape, summarizes progress that has occurred and some of the work various companies are doing that is leading us closer to a Holodeck. Quoting from the article:

Last year researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago created a version of a Holodeck called CAVE2, with funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. CAVE2 uses eight-foot high screens that cover 320 degrees of a room and can be used to model global weather patterns, study the way new drugs work in the body and help doctors practice surgeries.

Many other research and development teams are working on Holodeck-type projects. Quoting again from Bilton:

“The Holodeck is something we’ve been fixated on here for a number of years as a future target experience that would be truly immersive,” said Phil Rogers, a corporate fellow at Advanced Micro Devices, the computer chip maker. “Ten years ago, it seemed like a dream. Now, it feels within reach.”

At A.M.D.’s headquarters in Sunnyvale, Calif., Mr. Rogers and his team have built a version of a Holodeck. It’s shaped like a dome and is covered with wall-to-wall projectors. The room uses surround sound, augmented reality and other technologies to recreate the real world.

Educational Implications

Today’s computerized simulations such as those used in training airplane pilots, and High Interactive Intelligent Computer-assisted Learning systems (HIICAL) have proven highly effective in education (Sylwester & Moursund, August 2012). In a variety of situations, they can now out-perform human teachers. It is clear to me that continued progress in educational computerized simulations, HIICAL, and eventually Holodeck-type systems will become a routine component of our informal and formal educational systems.

However, we don’t need to wait for the “eventually.” If we scale back on our visions of a future Holodeck, we can think about what is now currently available such as the Web and the easy access to thousands of videos. Think of the Web as a virtual library, and the videos available on the Web as virtual movies. This combination would certainly seem like science fiction to people living a hundred years ago. Think of game-playing computer systems that are better than the world’s best human chess masters and Jeopardy players. Think of GPS systems—not only in cars but built into our ubiquitous cell phones.

Our children of today are living in a world in which computer capabilities exceed the capabilities of humans in a number of important ways, and such computers are now in routine use. We need to develop an educational system that takes advantage of such computer capabilities and helps to prepare students for their future lives in a world that will have still more powerful computers and Holodeck-like systems.

What You Can Do

Continue to increase your understanding of current capabilities of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) systems—especially those that relate to teaching and learning. As you gain new information and experience in these areas, integrate it into your interactions with your students and the other people you interact with in your day-to-day life. Today’s students are learning a lot about some aspects of ICT. However, they are learning relatively little about the roles of ICT within the various disciplines they are studying in school and how ICT will impact the lives they will face as adults.


Bilton, N. (1/26/2014). Disruptions: The Holodeck begins to take shape. The New York Times. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

Sylwester, R., & Moursund, D., eds. (August, 2012). Creating an appropriate 21st century education. Eugene, OR: Information Age Education. Download the PDF file from and the Microsoft Word file from

Suggested Readings from IAE

You can use Google to search all of the IAE publications. Click here to begin. Then click in the IAE Search box that is provided, insert your search terms, and click on the Search button. Click here to search the entire collection of IAE Blog entries. Here are some examples of IAE publications that might interest you.


20/20 vision for 2020 challenges. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

21st century skills. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

Education for the future. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

No cost educational videos. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

Thinking and acting globally. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

What the future is bringing us. Retrieved 2/17/2014 from

Design of Educational User Interfaces
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Monday, 24 January 2022

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