"What's the name of the planet again?"An Environmental Simulator is a virtual reality system used by civilizations of the Planetary Union. Users design programs including interactable synthetic environments, objects, and virtual persons with customized personalities. The purpose of a Simulator is primarily recreational.
"Unuk 4. Our Environmental Simulator doesn't really do it justice, but you get the idea." ― Pria Lavesque and Ed Mercer[source]
The Simulator uses force fields and holographic projections to generate virtual environments.
Observed Environmental Simulators consist of at least two rooms, the first being the simulation room proper and the second room housing the computer that generates the simulation.
The simulation room measures roughly 4.5 sq. meters (15 ft.); and is covered with lined panels resembling a graph, presumably for the computer to approximate relative distances and movement. Although users appear to traverse vast distances in a simulation, in the episode Firestorm, it is clear that any live users move very little, and that the computer alters what is sensed in order to create the illusion of movement. The computer may cause the actual exit door to appear in a simulation.
The computer room observes the simulation room from above through one-way glass. It contains a monitor, keyboard, and access to the ship's simulator. Bio-signs of any participant may be observed, such as levels of adrenaline.
The Environmental Simulator is interactive with real-world consequences. Not only can users actually sense what is simulated through sight, hearing, smell, and touch, but a program can be adjusted to cause harm or even kill the user as well, The simulator is limited, however, as users do not have costumes projected onto them; they must show up in non-simulated costume.
The Simulator provides a valuable psychological benefit to the crew of a space vessel. It allows crewmembers to experience the sensations of their home planets after prolonged periods in deep space, or simply serve as a source of needed recreation. Gravity, light, and other sensations can be simulated to recreate any desired experience.
Environmental Simulators seem to be ubiquitous throughout Union space, as they are used in both official Union facilities and in popular recreational locales.
- Union vessels - Environmental Simulators may be found in major Union vessels, although the only directly-attested simulator placed in a Union ship is the mid-level exploratory craft, the USS Orville.
- Moclus - Second Officer Bortus describes a gomaskah, a first date, Klyden, in an Environmental Simulator on the planet Moclus at the Moclan Central Arcade.
Within the Orville's simulator, Captain Mercer, Lieutenant Malloy, and Lieutenant John LaMarr dress as United States Marshalls and face 19th century bandidos in a gun battle. However, Malloy had tinkered with the program beforehand and the standoff turns into a dance competition. Mere days later, lieutenant Alara Kitan boxes with Bortus in an attempt to show him that women are capable of feats equal to men.
After witnessing the death of a crewmember, Kitan is seen in the Simulator, pummeling a suspended punching bag. She is interrupted by Malloy, LaMarr, and Bortus in 18th century French apparel, complaining that they have the Simulator reserved.
The Orville's Environmental Simulator serves as a crucial plot device in Firestorm. In which Alara Kitan tests her ability to handle fear through a series of simulated trials involving dangerous or terrifying situations, created by drawing on the real phobias of the Orville bridge crew. The program is designed by Isaac and authorization to allow real-world harm is granted by Doctor Claire Finn (which Kitan obtained by deceiving Finn). The experience nearly kills Kitan.
- Episode 1x01: Old Wounds
- Episode 1x03: About a Girl
- Episode 1x05: Pria
- Episode 1x08: Into the Fold (mentioned only)
- Episode 1x10: Firestorm
- Episode 1x11: New Dimensions (mentioned only)
- Parallels of the Environmental Simulator exist in the popular sci-fi series Star Trek: the holodeck and the holosuite.