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January 14, 2013

Project Holodeck in Dublin

IMD Video Game Debuts at Trinity College, Dublin

Projects from USC Cinema’s Interactive Media Division are often very ambitious. For a project to stand out in the competitive world of IMD, they need to step up in a big way. USC video game Project Holodeck attempts this by taking the science fiction staple of Star Trek’s Starship Enterprise’s Holodeck and making it a reality. This December, the Project Holodeck team presented their project at GAME: The Future of Play, a conference on experimental and future game forms, at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland.

“They saw what was going on in the virtual reality industry and thought that Project Holodeck would be perfect for the exhibit,” said James Iliff, IMD BA student and producer of Project Holodeck. “This was the first time we got to playtest with hundreds of people who weren’t familiar with the project. It went over really really well. They all got it. They understand what virtual reality is. We had people from all generations - kids to the elderly - when they tried on the hardware, it just clicked. They got it. It’s not just for hardcore gamers.”

Project Holodeck is a virtual reality platform built with consumer facing technology, DIY off-the-shelf components, bleeding?edge custom software and creatively integrated peripherals. The goal of Project Holodeck is to bring 360-degree, fully embodied virtual reality out of the research lab and into a fun, accessible consumer gaming platform.

The end result is a fully immersive, 3D experience in which a user, connected to a virtual reality headset, interacts with a generated environment.

Project Holodeck in action

“People were very excited,” said IMD MFA candidate Nathan Burba, creative director of Project Holodeck. “Our intention was to emulate reality as closely as possible and not cut corners. We didn’t cut corners on latency or sensory immersion. It uses optical tracking and a single camera which give the project much more precise 3D data. The key difference is that Project Holodeck uses a combination of many cutting-edge technologies. We are trying to combine them all for a purpose.”

USC was voted the #1 game design school in North America for its graduate and undergraduate degree programs by the Princeton Review and GamePro Media in 2012. This distinction was jointly awarded to  the School of Cinematic Arts' Interactive Media Division and the Viterbi School of Engineering's Department of Computer Science.

“The ambitious nature of Project Holodeck makes it a wonderfully compelling project,” said IMD Professor Laird Malamed. “The combined team from across the USC Games programs is tackling both very challenging hardware problems of tracking user movement, providing them visual and auditory feedback and doing all of it using equipment that is portable. Just being invited to the Trinity College event was an honor for the team and the program.  I am super excited about the recognition they received and the number of people who were able to try the prototype.”

“I am always quite happy when student-developed game projects make it into an international venue,” said USC Viterbi School of Engineering Professor Mike Zyda. “Project Holodeck is exploring whether consumer-grade, head-mounted displays have a place in the future of game development. We wish that team the best of luck in that venture!”