Penn Engineers Recreate Star Trek’s Holodeck Using ChatGPT and Video Game Assets

Using everyday language, users can prompt Holodeck to generate a virtually infinite variety of 3D spaces, which creates new possibilities for training robots to navigate the world. (Yue Yang)

In Star Trek: The Next Generation, Captain Picard and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise leverage the holodeck, an empty room capable of generating 3D environments, to prepare for missions and to entertain themselves, simulating everything from lush jungles to the London of Sherlock Holmes. Deeply immersive and fully interactive, holodeck-created environments are infinitely customizable, using nothing but language: the crew has only to ask the computer to generate an environment, and that space appears in the holodeck.

Today, virtual interactive environments are also used to train robots prior to real-world deployment in a process called “Sim2Real.” However, virtual interactive environments have been in surprisingly short supply. “Artists manually create these environments,” says Yue Yang, a doctoral student in the labs of Mark Yatskar and Chris Callison-Burch, Assistant and Associate Professors in Computer and Information Science (CIS), respectively. “Those artists could spend a week building a single environment,” Yang adds, noting all the decisions involved, from the layout of the space to the placement of objects to the colors employed in rendering.

Enter Holodeck, a system for generating interactive 3D environments co-created by Callison-Burch, Yatskar, Yang and Lingjie Liu, Aravind K. Joshi Assistant Professor in CIS, along with collaborators at Stanford, the University of Washington, and the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2). Named for its Star Trek forebear, Holodeck generates a virtually limitless range of indoor environments, using AI to interpret users’ requests. “We can use language to control it,” says Yang. “You can easily describe whatever environments you want and train the embodied AI agents.”

To read learn more about Holodeck, visit the Penn Engineering AI site.