One of the interesting ideas we briefly discussed in our MCCNM 336 class this past week was the concept of what I call science fiction based Interactive Media. For instance, the wall-size, immersive TVs in Farenheight 451. While Bradbury was a visionary, I would like to focus on two other topics we discussed.
First, William Gibson, one of my favorite authors and the pioneer of Cyberpunk, was also mentioned in the class, regarding the Matrix. Gibson himself did not actually write the Matrix movie. The movie was written by the Wachowski Brothers, with heavy influence from Gibson’s book, Neuromancer and some of the existing Cyberpunk at the time.
Within the context of Neuromancer, however, “The Matrix” is the virtual reality environment in which netrunners operate. It has very thematically similar elements to the movie’s Matrix, but is definitely a very different story. I won’t spoil the book for you, but will heartily recommend it. Which leads me to another great book that covers this topic: Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel, Ready Player One. It’s required reading for new Oculus Rift employees and is a blast-from-the-past-in-the-future kind of story. It’s also a hell of a ride and tremendous fun. I highly recommend it, but that’s a post for another time.
Second, what I really came here to talk about is Gene Roddenberry’s Holodeck. The holodeck is first seen on Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) and would go on to make appearances in both spin-off series’ Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) and Star Trek: Voyager (VOY). The holodeck first made its appearance early in TNG. Unfortunately, it served primarily as a means to introduce conflict into a utopian, conflict-free society.
As you can imagine, this meant your typical holodeck tropes: something goes wrong with the program, plunging the ship into chaos; a holodeck program gains sentience and attempts to destroy the crew; The holodeck becomes real somehow. The list goes on. Granted, Moriarity was a decent holodeck villain and Data sure loved those whacky Sherlock Holmes stories, but that’s really all TNG did with the holodeck. Great potential, greatly squandered. DS9 used the holodeck a bit more, especially toward the latter seasons with the Vic Fontaine program. Vic Fontaine was a sentient hologram, designed to know he was a hologram. Fascinating stuff. Of course that leads us to a main character on VOY, The Doctor. The Doctor is the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram. He actually finds a way to exit Sick Bay and exist in both the Holodeck and independently via a mobile transmitter. It’s a very interesting concept, but VOY didn’t really do much with the tech concepts as they did with characterization.
In real life, we are one step closer to something like the holodeck. For instance, the Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear VR are making strides in Virtual Reality. What is the holodeck, but advanced VR? Then there’s Microsoft’s amazing HOLOLENS Technology, currently in development.