I've done a 'holodeck is nearly here' post before but reading Steven Rosenbaum's summary of last week's Consumer Electronics Show (CES) made me realize a holodeck-lite is even closer at hand. Rosenbaum writes -
"Last year,.. I wrote a pretty snarky thing about how 3D would never happen. Well, I was wrong. And way wrong.
The one thing I saw that totally blew my mind was a 3D Menu system by Motorola. It was so cool to see all your shows, music, pictures and such in a 'cover flow format' floating in midair. I wanted to reach out and touch the navigation. And that can't be far behind."
Well yes, it's not far away at all. In fact a piece in yesterday's New York Times hints at how it can become a reality later this year when Microsoft launches Project Natal - the gesture controller for the Xbox console -
"Where the Wii requires hypersensitive hand-held controllers to translate body motions into on-screen action, Microsoft’s Natal will require nothing more than the human body. Microsoft has demonstrated games like dodge ball where people can jump, hurl balls at opponents and dart out of the way of incoming balls using natural motions."
Now, attach Natal to one of the many 3D TVs seen at CES and you've got the basic platform to reach out and touch that Motorola floating menu. Anyone who went to see Disney's 'A Christmas Carol' in 3D would recall that the plane of convergence was in the middle of the theatre, well in front of the screen (unlike 'Avatar' where the plane of convergence was behind the screen, like looking through a window). On many occasions it felt like Scrooge was floating menacingly above you. And the snow was falling on your head.
Connect Natal to similar method of 3D projection and you've got the guts of a system to turn much of World Builder (see below) into reality. This is the wonderful video Gabriela Avram played at the end of 3Dcamp last year and 1 minute in you can watch the protagonist use a two-handed pinch gesture to extrude a floating cuboid -
Many of the methods for 3D object manipulation in that video have an exact analog in Second Life. In fact it's fair to say World Builder was most likely influenced by the popular virtual world.
Now imagine these tools in the hands of our kids. The facility to conjure up and shape a world of their imagination. There are 500 million children of the virtual world and each will be a world builder.