How Far Are We From Holographic Displays?

By Ryan Desmind | Jan 22, 2016

Remember how we used to watch movies on a hand operated projector? We’ve sure come a long way from back then to the age of high definition LCD screens and these too shall soon be passé. With the invention of cutting edge holographic displays, the possibilities of visually driven machines will experience a complete makeover.

How I Met Your Mother fans might remember Barney using a holographic display once in Season 8. Well, you needn’t watch a Star Wars movie or any show to have a glimpse of a holographic display. In a little more time you could actually see it in person. Yes, holographic displays can be the next big thing!

What Is It and How Does It Work?

Technically speaking, holographic displays are a kind of display technology that provide all four eye mechanisms: motion parallax, binocular disparity, convergence as well as accommodation. Now these can be simple 2D images or the more complex volumetric (3D) displays, which are created by rapidly projected 2D slices or by means of using volumetric equivalent of pixels. The result is an image that appears to float in volume and can be viewed and manipulated from a variety of angles. Needless to say, its use will completely do away with bulky screens and projector machinery resulting in greater mobility and efficient usage of space.

Target Audience and Potential Impact Zone

The possibilities of this technology’s usage are endless. It will find its way into virtually all spheres of business like: communication, architecture, medical care, computer graphics, engineering, design, advertising, entertainment, education and scientific visualization. It makes it possible to spatially manipulate, analyze, navigate and expand data via media comprehendible visual representations along various dimensions. It’ll introduce a paradigm shift in virtual reality as we know it. In layman terms, you might soon be able to talk to your friends in an artificially simulated environment allowing tele-immersion, appearing as if you were actually there and not behind a computer screen.

Firefighters, miners, and oil explorers who work in areas of reduced visibility will benefit as holographic images can be projected from inside the area hidden from view. New age gadgets such as TVs, watches, cell phones, and computers may no longer have any use for screens at all. Recently, researchers at MIT’s Media Lab claimed to have come up with an innovation – a form of holographic projector which enables the introduction of practical color 3D holographic video displays as well as higher-resolution 2D displays with lower power consumption. The result simply means that holograms will find their way into almost every sphere of your life from giving a presentation in your board room at the office to seeing your CAT scan and ultrasound results.

When Will This Technology Be Available to You?

Simple holographic displays are becoming common and are being adapted and imbibed into various gadgets by many companies now. They have won accolades in most retail environments. HP Labs have built a miniature, multi-angle, glasses-free 3D display for smartphones, tablets, and watches to produce holograms. Similarly, Sony has created a 360 degree display that uses electro-holography for recording and reconstructing 3D objects.

Another company called Infinite Z has built an input device that goes by the name zSpace. This technology tracks the movement of your head and hands by combining stereoscopic images with infrared to assemble a more realistic holographic effect. It allows you to view a minute object from different angles and enlarges it as you move your head.  However, volumetric displays are still in their cradle as they are much more complex. They demand a lot of computing power and moving parts, which could make systems unstable. Therefore, they are not yet technologically evolved enough to be commercially or industrially viable.

All in all, holographic displays are no longer figments of the imagination, which seemed to only be realized in science fiction. Some of their prototypes will invade your life sooner than others and at the rate with which research has progressed in this sphere, it will not take much longer than a couple of decades.
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