Devotees of the late, great sci-fi series Star Trek: The Next Generation will remember the holodeck, a space-age virtual reality arena that could replicate any kind of environment. While it could be used as a training platform, Enterprise officers most often used the holodeck as a recreational space, immersing themselves in nature.
In an inspired twist on the concept, researchers in Europe have developed a virtual reality environment for freely moving animals that appears to be effective at generating convincing illusions of the natural world for mice, fish, and fruit flies.
Alas for the animals, the VR system isn't designed for the animals’ recreational benefit. Instead, researchers hope to use the VR rig as a controlled setting for examining animal perceptions and behavior.
Dubbed FreemoVR, the system is actually pretty basic as far as virtual reality environments go. The setup is essentially a cylindrical space in which the floor and wraparound wall are made from flexible computer displays. Animals placed into the environment are monitored by overhead cameras and sensors that track their movement and behavior around the 3D space.