Command Your Own Holodeck With An iPad Mini

For $50,000, this unbelievable 3-D illustration system could be yours next year.

Imagine drawing a tree on an iPad, and having that tree appear in 3-D Space, life-sized right in front of your eyes–no virtual reality headset needed. Someone could walk in and see exactly what you drew. And then they could grab their own iPad and add to the giant sketch.


This is the potential of Hyve-3D by the company HybridLab, a dazzling, highly immersive illustration platform that will have you pointing to the Star Trek holodeck to best verbalize what’s going on.

The system itself is actually less complicated than it may appear. At its heart, Hyve-3D is a 16-foot concave fabric screen, that exploits the trompe l’oil effect to make it feel like you’re immersed in the image–just like the planetarium makes you feel like you’re surrounded by stars.

Controlling the action are two iPads are hooked to motion tracking systems. By moving them forward or back in real space, the iPads each command a giant window within the projection–basically a plane that floats around as a rectangular canvas painting the scene. And the experience that ensues isn’t limited to a tiny screen or a personal VR headset. It’s one big room of image.

“We don’t like virtual reality headsets because they are intrusive for collaborative work. You need to have an avatar and a virtual hand to see each other gestures,” explains HybridLab director Dr. Tomás Dorta. “In the Hyve-3D you see your body related to the full-scale immersive projection and many people can collaborate without wearing any glasses or trackers on their heads.”

The developers, who are snowballing the project out of their research at the University of Montreal, see Hyve-3D as a creative canvas for architects, industrial designers, and animators. And indeed, the potential of collaborating on the giant scale through quick, intuitive sketching seems remarkable. But the price will limit the system to high-end professional use. The system will range from $50,000 to $65,000–depending on the projector’s resolution–its creators plan for Hyve-3D to hit the market this January–a mountain of money to a small design consultancy, and pocket change to an international architecture firm.

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About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started, a simple way to give back every day.