Star Trek tech will let people meet virtually, researchers say
Edmonton researchers are developing a virtual reality technology for business meetings that they say is pretty close to science fiction — specifically, like Star Trek's famous holodeck.
In the television hit, the holodeck let spaceship crew members enter holographic computer-simulated environments that seemed like the real thing.
Computer scientists at the University of Alberta havespent the past yearworking ontheir own3-D virtual reality technology that they saywill make it seem as though participants of a video conference are all in the same room —evenif they're sitting in different countries.
"As engineers and scientists, we look at these futuristic things and we say, 'Well, we can build that,'" said David Antoniuk,the director of business development for TRLabs in Edmonton,a partner onthe project. "So we're trying to develop this holodeck technology."
The new technology is being developed with Hewlett-Packard in California. Participants will meet in a virtual space and will even be able tosee virtual products, such as cars, that will seem like they're in the room, the researchers say.
Pierre Boulanger, the lead researcher and a computer scientist at U of A,said the technologywill be so realistic users willbe able to see an eye twitch or a bead of sweat —important non-verbal cues people often rely on when making business decisions.
Boulanger said that kind of realism is lacking in current teleconferencing and video conferencing technologies.
"It doesn't convey the sense of presence," said Boulanger.
"To feel you are in contact with the person not just on an intellectual basis, but also anemotional basis. So in some ways, we are the first phase of this telepresence revolution."
Boulanger said that, for many people, tighter deadlines and faster technology has made business travel more tiring and frustrating than exotic and fun.
Hebelieves that his team's technology will make virtual meetings so realistic thatbusiness people will opt for more of them.
That, in turn, will make people moreproductive, as it will allow them to "meet" more often without worrying about jet lag.
"People won't have to travel so much, which will certainly reduce the fatigue of a lot of people," Boulanger said.