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Firm Tests Gaming on Movie-Style Screens

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Sci/Tech

Ever wish you could experience the "holodeck," the 3-D virtual environment aboard the Starship Enterprise? There's a company that believes it's come close, letting video game players play with huge, high-definition screens that envelop the user.

HoloDek, which takes its name from the "Star Trek" series, has been testing out the concept in Hampton for about a year.

"This is a movie theater for gamers," Mike Fortier, vice president for technology at HoloDek, told The Boston Globe.

The company's test site features 42 gaming stations with high-speed personal computers and high-definition screens ranging in size from 17 inches to 13 feet.

Then there's the "half-pipe," which features a screen that is 20 feet wide and 12 feet high. Another creation is a sphere, which is 20 feet in diameter and eventually will offer a 360-degree wraparound gaming effect. The gamer sits inside the sphere on a robot that rumbles, banks, and spins out, providing many of the same effects as a flight simulator.

Most video game players play at home on their computer, game console, or the Internet. But HoloDek officials believe their creation will bring such gamers out of the solitude of their homes.

"We want to make it socially acceptable to enjoy the gaming experience," said Kit McKittrick, CEO of HoloDek. "How many gamers have experienced the country club life?"

HoloDek, which grew out of a robot company that is still run by Fortier, is lining up the financing to roll out more than 160 high-end gaming facilities over the next five years in the Northeast. The company is also talking with movie theater chains about installing HoloDeks inside existing theaters.

Pricing will be $5 an hour and slightly less for people willing to pay a $40 annual membership fee. McKittrick said he expects to charge $1 a minute, or $60 an hour, to play the sphere or half-pipe. Training on any game is free.

McKittrick said HoloDek will make the half-pipe, the sphere, and the robot inside the sphere. Company employees can modify video games to run on the enlarged screens.

Target markets include long-term gamers, businesses and exotic educational uses - McKittrick noted that an engineer working for race car driver Roger Penske spent a week exploring whether the sphere could be used as a training site.

Associated Press

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