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11/4/2010
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3D Holograms Coming To A Screen Near You

University of Arizona develops three-dimensional motion hologram that is viewable on all sides without special glasses.

If you thought 3D TVs was the next great wave in entertainment, think again. Developments in holographic three-dimensional technology, introduced in the mainstream in 1977 in the science-fiction movie “Star Wars,” may take off before 3D can make a splash.

Researchers at the University of Arizona this week announced they have developed the fastest 3D motion hologram. Unlike regular flat 3D, a holographic display presents an image that is viewable on all sides, projected in front of the viewer without the need for special glasses. Refresh rates have been the issue with the technology, with one image changing every few minutes. However, the rates have now been increased to a view change every two seconds. The research team used 16 cameras to create a 45-degree view of a 3D image.

"Holographic telepresence means we can record a three-dimensional image in one location and show it in another location, in real-time, anywhere in the world," Nasser Peyghambarian, an optical sciences professor, who led the research effort, said in a statement.

The hologram can refresh faster because of the use of a new type of plastic on a screen that reacts chemically to a laser shooting holographic pixels. The image is then stored on the screen and fades away naturally after a couple of minutes or seconds, depending on the parameters used. As more cameras are used, the final holographic image becomes refined, since each camera views the object from a different perspective, the research group said.

A wide variety of applications could spawn from the technology, including entertainment, telemedicine, 3D maps that can be updated for the military and remote guidance during emergency situations, industry observers say.

The University of Arizona project involved a 10-inch screen, but the research group is also testing a 17-inch prototype and trying to find a way to show full color. The project made a landmark achievement that Peyghambarian’s group refers to as full parallax: the ability to see different perspectives when moving your head up and down or left and right. “This makes for a very life-like image,” he said. “Humans are used to seeing things in 3D.”

A full report on the project is detailed in the current issue of the science journal Nature.

In October, Toshiba announced it will release two 3D TVs that will be able to produce images without the need for special glasses.

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