Take one step closer to the Holodeck of the future

veearrThe virtual reality of the real world has always struggled to live up to the overly-ambitious promise of fictional VR. It’s hard to get excited about some limited, roughly-rendered, entirely unconvincing CGI when you’ve seen Lawnmower Man or the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Well, things are about to change with a new generation of VR that at least manages to keep up with its user – even if it still has that roughly-rendered blocky look.

The new system was created by a team of researchers from the Vienna University of Technology in Austria. Led by Hannes Kaufmann, the VR’s secret ingredient is its ability to instantly generate new spaces for the user as they move around a physical lot. “People think they are walking in much larger environments,” Kaufmann explains. “We can simulate rooms connected by corridors, and we could simulate outdoor areas in which certain areas are restricted.”

The system keeps track of the position of a person wearing the virtual reality headset via their head and body movements, and creates new environments based on that position as well as the dimensions of the physical space that they’re in. The result is the creation of an entirely unreal space that is so convincing, the user begins to lose track of what is, and isn’t, real – something that isn’t necessarily helped by a system that can build virtual walls where real ones exist. “People would try to walk through the virtual wall when they are right next to the real wall,” Kaufmann said. “If [they] do this once, they will never do it again.”

According to a report in New Scientist, the technology’s illusion is “strong enough that people trying it do not realize that they are effectively walking around in circles,” something that suggests a stronger “reality” than previous VR efforts. Also, because the virtual environments are generated immediately, the imaginary world is potentially infinite in scale – as long as the user can keep going for without needing a reality break.

Although this system immediately suggests use in gaming scenarios, Kaufmann believes the technology could be applied to high culture. He explained to New Scientist that he could imagine it being used to recreate existing museums to allow anyone in the world to experience some of the greatest art in the world virtually. “In the morning you could walk into the Guggenheim and in the afternoon explore the Taj Mahal,” he told the website. Admittedly, for that to truly have the impact that it deserves, there may have to be a significant uptick in the graphics of the system.

Emerging Tech

How Super Mario, Magic: The Gathering, and PowerPoint are low-key supercomputers

What if the creators of Super Mario World, PowerPoint, and even Magic: The Gathering had accidentally created tools hiding a general-purpose computer in plain sight? Turns out they have.
Emerging Tech

Two galaxies play tug of war in this spectacular Hubble image

Hubble has captured evidence of a nearby galactic neighbor affecting the the shape and star production of a galaxy. The irregular galaxy NGC 4485 has been pulled into an unusual shape due to the nearby and much larger galaxy NGC 4490.
Emerging Tech

The moon is shrinking as it loses heat, new images reveal

New research suggests the Moon is shrinking. NASA scientists have used data from their Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera to look at wrinkles in the surface of the Moon which are formed as it loses heat and shrinks in size.
Emerging Tech

Friendly cube robot Bumble passes its first hardware test aboard the ISS

There are some unexpected guests aboard the International Space Station (ISS): cute cube robots called Astrobees. Now the first Astrobee robot has undergone hardware tests to check whether its subsystems are working correctly.
Emerging Tech

Lilium Jet takes flight in first test for all-electric, five-seater aircraft

German startup Lilium had a successful maiden flight for its Lilium Jet. The all-electric, five-seater aircraft, powered by 36 engines fitted under its wings, looks to travel up to 300 kilometers in just 60 minutes.
Emerging Tech

Meatballs and pastries offered by Wing’s first European drone delivery service

Alphabet's Wing is getting ready to begin testing its drone delivery technology in Helsinki, Finland. At the start, customers will be able to order a variety of food and drinks, with delivery promised within about 10 minutes.
Emerging Tech

The rise and reign of Starship, the world’s first robotic delivery provider

Excited about the impending delivery robot revolution? If so, you need to get familiar with Starship Technologies, the company which pioneered the whole thing. Here's what you need to know.
Emerging Tech

Impossible’s new plant-based sausage is here, but only at Little Caesar’s

Impossible Foods has teamed up with Little Caesars restaurants to create a new plant-based sausage pizza topping. Get ready for ... The Impossible Sausage. Here's where you can try it.
Emerging Tech

First, it was San Francisco. Now, the U.K. is fighting facial recognition

The U.K.'s first legal battle over police use of facial recognition has kicked off. The case involves a citizen who alleges the tech was used against him in a breach of his privacy.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk thinks Starlink satellite internet could be online before 2021

Elon Musk's ultra-ambitious Starlink space internet project may take until November 2027 to be fully operational. However, some level of service could be offered as soon as next year.
News

Has purpose become a punchline? Among startups, the debate rages

Tech companies pledging to do good as they make money hand over fist has become a Silicon Valley punchline, but beneath the jeering, a real debate is playing out among startup founders and the investors who fund them.
Emerging Tech

This guy managed to squeeze an entire game console into a Game Boy cartridge

Popular YouTuber 3DSage has managed to compress an entire mobile games console inside a single original Game Boy cartridge. Check it out in all in its impressively miniaturized glory.
Emerging Tech

Ford’s bipedal delivery robot can walk straight up to your doorstep

Autonomous wheeled delivery robots are seemingly everywhere in 2019. Agility Robotics' Digit robot takes a different approach: It promises to carry out its deliveries while walking on two legs.
Emerging Tech

Scientists use an X-ray laser to create the loudest possible underwater sound

Researchers from Stanford University and the Department of Energy have produced the loudest sound possible to make under water. Here's how they managed to create it — and why they did it.