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.