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NYU is building a real-life holodeck

For what? All sorts of stuff. A $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation will get things going.

The prospect of sci-fi turning into real life is pretty familiar these days. In the past couple of years, several projectshave claimed to point the way toward a real-life version of the holodeck from Star Trek: basically, an immersive virtual-reality experience in which participants can freely interact with their surroundings. For now, it’s still more hype than substance. But NYU got a $2.9 million grant from the National Science Foundation to make it happen.

When Winslow Burleson, director of the NYU-X Lab at the College of Nursing, announced the grant at the NYC Media Lab Summit last month, quite a few people in the audience, including this reporter, were incredulous. (“I’m still trying to wrap my head around that holodeck presentation,” one demo participant said, hours later.) So we tracked Burleson down for more details. Does the project actually intend to bring Star Trek to life? And besides the obvious cool factor, what will be the eventual payoff?

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