I think we’re talking slightly different things!
William Holz

I agree that there are useful augmented reality technologies (I actually worked on one in my last job — go to http://glasses.com and check out their “virtual try on” feature) — but you said: “Imagine almost all the features of a Star Trek Holodeck…” — and now you’re saying “Sure, it’s not exactly a ‘holodeck’”…I’m telling you “It’s not going to be remotely like a Holodeck in any way whatever.

(And if it tries to get anywhere close to that, it’s going to make most people horribly nauseous”.)

As for the Microsoft Hololens — I presume you’ve never seen it working IRL. The problems with it are many, and serious — and well hidden in their carefully rigged demos:

  1. It can only add light to surfaces, it can’t remove any. If it’s the only source of light in a dark room, then that’s not too serious — but this is a problematic restriction because projectors aren’t very bright still.
  2. It’s dependent on the surfaces in the room being “well behaved” to incoming light. A flat black object will absorb light from the projector — and can never be painted white. A shiney object will create unwanted (and unfixable) highlights — and will reflect the light projected onto it on to other surfaces nearby. Surfaces with rough textures defeat the light projection algorithm. Don’t even think of hanging a mirror on the wall!
  3. It’s viewer-dependent…and dependent on the projector being close to the viewer. Surfaces that are close to being parallel to the light rays from the projector don’t get lit very well — if your head is not where the projector is, then you can see where those surfaces are…so the effect is limited to one person — and only if they aren’t running around the room doing exciting things. Having a head-mounted projector might solve this for a single player…but you’re all about “no helmets”…so, no.

For the haptic stuff — I’ve used some of the versions of this that are out there. Suppose you want to pick up a virtual cup from the desk in front of you…if you have a hand-only haptic then so long as you close your fingers around the cup, keeping your wrist, elbow, shoulder, back and hips dead stationary — then you get the feel that you’re gripping the cup — but if you stick out a finger and push against the cup by moving your elbow/shoulder/back/hips — then there is no restraint on those joints and your finger goes right though the cup like it wasn’t there. Sure, you *IMAGINE* that this is a restriction that you can live with — but when you try it in practice, it’s very hard not to accidentally move an unrestricted joint and wreck the reality of it. So you wind up with the haptic controller being a very artificial-feeling thing — and it’s little more use than a gamepad with a “Pick up nearest object” button.

AR is a disaster for things like LARPing because then you’re moving around in a world that the computer doesn’t have a good map of — and if the AR display actually shows something, it obscures your vision of the real world, and pretty soon you’re tripping over things and poking your eyes out on branches. Most practical AR and VR systems have to go to some trouble to restrain the user or sharply control the environment to prevent very dangerous things from happening to them.

The small practical realities of the world kill these grand designs stone dead once you move them from the lab into a real user environment.

The bottom line is that what you get isn’t remotely, anything even vaguely like a “Holodeck” — and the technological advances needed to come even a small step in that direction are quite overwhelming — which is why we’re not all using AR and VR on a routine basis.

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