Previously, the only thing (okay, one of the only things) that was stopping us from sending Princess Leia-type messages across the universe in an R2D2 was the fact that we couldn't make holograms with refresh rates quick enough to convey movement. Well, that's changed--a research team at the University of Arizona has developed a system that can render an image in near real-time and update the image every two seconds, which is pretty darn close to real-time (well…considering).
In 2008, the same team presented an updateable holographic 3D display that was capable of recording and displaying images every few minutes. The display could then last for several hours without needing to be refreshed, but was sensitive to ambient noise (vibration and air turbulance), as well as thermal expansion, and so needed to be fully enclosed on an air damped optical table.
The new technology features a quicker refresh rate (two seconds) and thus no longer needs to last for several hours without refresh.
In order to create this quickly-refreshing holograph, the team uses 16 regular cameras to focus on a single object. The images are then sent, via Ethernet, to a computer, which reconstructs them into a 3D holographic image. The computer sends this information to a 50Hz nanosecond pulsed laser, which shoots holographic pixels called hotels onto a plastic screen (or "photorefractive polymer material"). The screen reacts to the laser and stores the image.
If you're wondering what's changed since 2008--why this new technology can now refresh at a much quicker rate--it's a combination of the laser (which is now much quicker, with pulses in the nanosecond range), and the new screen (which is optimized for sensitive exposure, instead of durability).
So what does this mean for 3D--I mean, holographic--TV of the future?
Well, according to the researchers: these new, quick refresh rates mean that soon technology will be good enough to develop 3D holographic TVs for the consumer market, probably within the next seven to ten years.
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This story, "Forget 3DTV: Holographic TV coming by 2017" was originally published by PCWorld.