Google Steals Holodeck Idea from Star Trek with “Interactive Spaces” and it’s Fantastic

Remember when you first discovered the Holodeck, and tried to recreate it with cardboard and paper cutouts in your room? Maybe that was just me.  But get ready, because when you read this article about Google’s new software framework that creates interactive experiences in real physical space, you’re going to be blown away.  Called Interactive Spaces, the open source project was released through Google’s blog this past Monday, and you can check out a copy of the post (written by Keith Hughes of the Experience Engineering Team) below:

“There are cameras in the ceiling which are doing blob tracking, in this case the blobs are people walking on the floor. The floor then responds to the blobs by having colored circles appear underneath the feet of someone standing on the floor and then having the circles follow that person around.
 
Interactive Spaces works by having “consumers” of events, like the floor, connect to “producers” of events, like those cameras in the ceiling. Any number of “producers” and “consumers” can be connected to each other, making it possible to create quite complex behavior in the physical space.
 
Interactive Spaces is written in Java, so it can run on any operating system that supports Java, including Linux and OSX and soon Windows.
 
Interactive Spaces provides a collection of libraries for implementing the activities which will run in your interactive space. Implementing an activity can require anything from a few lines in a simple configuration file to you creating the proper interfaces entirely from scratch. The former gets you off the ground very quickly, but limits what your activity can do, while the latter allows you the most power at the cost of more complexity. Interactive Spaces also provides activities’ runtime environment, allowing you to deploy, start, and stop the activities running on multiple computers from a central web application in your local network.
 
Additional languages like Javascript and Python are supported out of the box. Native applications can also be run, which means packages like openFrameworks which use C++ are also supported out of the box. Plans are also underway for supporting the Processing language.”

No big deal or anything, I’m just sort of FREAKING OUT right now.  This is incredibly cool.  I also dig the added support for Processing, the program I’m currently learning that is fantastic for creating graphics.  Google thinks Processing’s enhanced graphic ability will make a great addition to Interactive Spaces by heightening its visual aesthetic.

I’d like to mention Rockwell Group here, as they collaborated with Google on the project’s initial designs.  They are a New York and Europe-based company whose LAB division “creates narratives and new design opportunities that provide deeper and more valuable experiences for visitors and inhabitants.”  Check out the company’s bio below:

“In general, the ambition of the LAB is to explore, experiment, and embed interactive experiences augmented with digital technology in objects, environments and stories. This activity includes in-house design and the creation of interactive environments/objects, scripting software, science and technology consultation, and maintaining networks of technology solution providers. Our toolkit includes working with custom hardware and software for RFID, UPC scanning, video processing, sonar, capacitance, shape memory alloy, LED and lighting technologies, wireless communications, and screen-based dynamically composited animation” (rockwellgroup).

I look forward to seeing what happens with Interactive Spaces while, at the same time, being super jealous that I don’t have this awesome toy to play with nor the knowledge to make it myself!

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