Project Holodeck: Virtual Reality and Education

holodeck_color_full_bg-1024x398This week on Tausend Talks, I’m going to veer away from our discussion on Learning Theories and talk about an innovative technology.

I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing firsthand the genesis of Project Holodeck and its subsequent development phases.

Project Holodeck is a Virtual Reality gaming platform created by students of the University of Southern California’s Games program. Project Director, Nathan Burba, along with Producer, James Iliff led a group of programmers and artists from USC, Gnomon School of Visual Effects, and Otis College of Art and Design in the creation of the platform and its two video games: Wild Skies and Zombies OTH.

“The current hardware design of the Holodeck system uses the Oculus Rift for head mounted video feedback, the Playstation Move optical system for head tracking, and the Razer Hydra magnetic system for limited body tracking. When combined, these systems allow us to create a realistic 3D space that the user can freely move around in and interact with.” -Project Holodeck.

Simply put, players strap on the console, a helmet, and face goggles (the Oculus Rift). A positioning camera tracks the player’s movement within their living room. The player than views the game and their movements within the head mounted display, which is essentially a personal video screen. The player uses the hydra controls to activate weapons and steer vehicles.

You can view the demonstration of the gaming system at Youtube.

 Holodeck1 holodeck3 holodeck4

Currently, the Holodeck is being designed for consumer gaming. However, as an Educational Technologists, I’m constantly looking for how new technologies can be beneficial to the education world.

Holodeck2I imagine the Holodeck being used to give people experiences they normally would not be able to have in everyday life. Virtual Reality can help students and learners see the very small (microbiology), the very large (astronomical), and the very far away (ancient ruins). In writing this statement, I’m having childhood flashbacks of watching and reading “The Magic School Bus” series, being very jealous that Ms. Frizzle’s class could enter the human body or travel to the rain forest. We may be one step closer to being a part of Ms. Frizzle’s class with the opportunities Project Holodeck and Virtual Reality could potentially afford us.

Imagine an Observatory giving students the opportunity to explore the moon and the galaxy. Imagine University Admissions counselors providing a Virtual tour of their campuses to students abroad or unable to visit campus. Medical students can practice surgeries without risk or the expense of using cadavers. Geography, World History, Art History, and Archaeology, students can visit long-gone cultures and lands, getting a more interactive learning experience than their traditional classroom experiences can currently provide.

Although I can’t wait to kill some Zombies and defend my ship in Wild Skies, I’m more interested in the future applications Project Holodeck’s Virtual Reality platform has on improving curriculum and how learners see the world.

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About Julie Tausend Burba

Instructional Designer at Hulu, Ed Tech and Project Management enthusiast. MBA Technology Management, MS Management, BS Communications, Traveler and Cook.

Posted on May 12, 2013, in Educational Technology, Tausend Talks Shop, Teaching Tools and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Carmen V. Krol

    Holodeck does sound like a technology that can greatly impact education, particularly by replicating the performance context. Your post makes me wonder about how it might affect educating those with disabilities.

    • I’ve tested Project Holodeck first-hand and it relies heavily on vision and, to a lesser extent, mobility, which means it may not be as suitable for adaptive learning. Thanks for bringing up that perspective, Carmen, I hadn’t thought about it. Another application I didn’t consider is that it could be used to encourage young adults to pursue certain careers by, as you state, “replicating the performance context”. I imagine young people being encouraged to become a Pilot, Astronaut, Archeologist, or Architect simply by “trying the career” in a safe space created by Holodeck.

  2. Hi Juliet, would this new technology be of any interest for you? pinstriped. It would be more about covering the teacher’s desktop during the lecture I guess 🙂

    • Hello Adriana,

      Interestingly enough, when I went on job interviews, I made sure my laptop desktop top was clear of all clutter so that it looked neat when I connected to a projector to present. A software for a gaming program automatically launched on start up and although I didn’t intend for that to appear, it was a conversation starter with a fellow colleague. Having that gaming application appear helped confirm that I was a cultural fit for the company. Though, I definitely see the benefit of an application that let’s you “cover” your digital workspace temporary as opposed to re-organizing.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Julie Tausend of Tausend Talks EdTech

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  2. Pingback: For realsies! Virtual Reality company, Survios is a go! | Tausend Talks EdTech

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