Moving holograms: From science fiction to reality (w/ Video)

Moving holograms: From science fiction to reality
This is a refreshable, holographic image of an F-4 Phantom Jet created on a photorefractive polymer at the College of Optical Sciences, the University of Arizona. Credit: of Arizona

Remember the Star Wars scene in which R2D2 projects a three-dimensional image of a troubled Princess Leia delivering a call for help to Luke Skywalker and his allies? What used to be science fiction is now close to becoming reality thanks to a breakthrough in 3D holographic imaging technology developed at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences.

A team led by optical sciences professor Nasser Peyghambarian developed a new type of holographic telepresence that allows the projection of a three-dimensional, moving image without the need for special eyewear such as or other auxiliary devices. The technology is likely to take applications ranging from telemedicine, advertising, updatable 3D maps and entertainment to a new level.

The journal Nature chose the technology to feature on the cover of its Nov. 4 issue.

Traditional holograms are printed much in the same way a poster or a painting are, in that once the image is printed on a surface, it is permanent. But a technological breakthrough at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences has brought the possibility of full color, rewritable, holographic displays and televisions one step closer to reality.

"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," said Peyghambarian, who led the research effort.

"Holographic stereography has been capable of providing excellent resolution and depth reproduction on large-scale 3D static images," the authors wrote, "but has been missing dynamic updating capability until now."

"At the heart of the system is a screen made from a novel photorefractive material, capable of refreshing holograms every two seconds, making it the first to achieve a speed that can be described as quasi-real-time," said Pierre-Alexandre Blanche, an assistant research professor in the UA College of Optical Sciences and lead author of the Nature paper.

The uses a 10-inch screen, but Peyghambarian's group is already successfully testing a much larger version with a 17-inch screen. The image is recorded using an array of regular cameras, each of which views the object from a different perspective. The more cameras that are used, the more refined the final holographic presentation will appear.

That information is then encoded onto a fast-pulsed laser beam, which interferes with another beam that serves as a reference. The resulting interference pattern is written into the photorefractive polymer, creating and storing the image. Each laser pulse records an individual "hogel" in the polymer. A hogel (short for holographic pixel) is the three-dimensional version of a pixel, the basic units that make up the picture.

The fades away by natural dark decay after a couple of minutes or seconds depending on experimental parameters. Or it can be erased by recording a new 3D image, creating a new diffraction structure and deleting the old pattern.

Holographic display shows images of researchers in a remote location. Note that in the first image the researcher is smiling; the next time the image is refreshed after several seconds, he's not smiling anymore.

Peyghambarian explained: "Let's say I want to give a presentation in New York. All I need is an array of cameras here in my Tucson office and a fast Internet connection. At the other end, in New York, there would be the 3D display using our laser system. Everything is fully automated and controlled by computer. As the image signals are transmitted, the lasers inscribe them into the screen and render them into a three-dimensional projection of me speaking."

Moving holograms: From science fiction to reality
Nasser Peyghambarian is a researcher at the University of Arizona. This is a refreshable, holographic image of an F-4 Phantom Jet created on a photorefractive polymer at the College of Optical Sciences, the University of Arizona. Credit: University of Arizona

The overall recording setup is insensitive to vibration because of the short pulse duration and therefore suited for industrial environment applications without any special need for vibration, noise or temperature control.

One of the system's major hallmarks never achieved before is what Peyghambarian's group calls full parallax: "As you move your head left and right or up and down, you see different perspectives. This makes for a very life-like image. Humans are used to seeing things in 3D."

The work is a result of a collaboration between the UA and Nitto Denko Technical, or NDT, a company in Oceanside, Calif. NDT provided the polymer sample and media preparation. "We have made major advances in photorefractive polymer film fabrication that allow for the very interesting 3D images obtained in our upcoming Nature article," said, Michiharu Yamamoto, vice president at NDT and co-author of the paper.

Laser pulses record image of an F4 Phantom fighter jet on a new holographic display developed by researchers at the University of Arizona and Nitto Denko Technical Corp.

Potential applications of holographic telepresence include advertising, updatable 3D maps and entertainment. Telemedicine is another potential application: "Surgeons at different locations around the world can observe in 3D, in real time, and participate in the surgical procedure," the authors wrote.

The system is a major advance over computer-generated holograms, which place high demands on computing power and take too long to be generated to be practical for any real-time applications.

Currently, the telepresence system can present in one color only, but Peyghambarian and his team have already demonstrated multi-color 3D display devices capable of writing images at a faster refresh rate, approaching the smooth transitions of images on a TV screen. These devices could be incorporated into a telepresence set-up in near future.

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Citation: Moving holograms: From science fiction to reality (w/ Video) (2010, November 3) retrieved 22 August 2019 from
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Nov 03, 2010
Patent Violation in the works.

What is Patent Infringement ?


Looks like they tried designing around Colossal by using chromatophores, but Colossal using "photon induced electric field switching" has 2 Patents on it and the website has been around for eleven years giving plenty of time for these folks to study and attempt a design around.

Once they go non-contact with their functionality they will clearly be in patent violation country.

Nov 03, 2010
Not quite like the princess Leia hologram, since it has to be inside a (probably fairly rare and expensive) polymer rather than in the open air. Not to say that this isn't an impressive technology, though. The world is going to look very different in 20 years.

Nov 03, 2010
Hope that you're a patent attorney, otherwise leave it up to them. I haven't heard anything about "Colossal" until just now. Did they publish anywhere? I sorta doubt Nature would let them rip off someone else's paper. Just a shot in the dark there.

Nov 03, 2010
I'm sure their attorneys are waiting in the high
grass for the proper time to go after their prey.

Nov 03, 2010
What's "natural dark decay?" Why do the holograms in this setup decay after a couple of minutes or seconds?

Nov 04, 2010
What's "natural dark decay?" Why do the holograms in this setup decay after a couple of minutes or seconds?

It's probably part of the nature of the polymer, itself.

Nov 04, 2010
Most likely.

Nov 07, 2010
Patent Violation in the works.

What is Patent Infringement ?

IANAPL, and besides patent law is littered with case law where the judge or jury did not understand the technology. But one of the things that can cause a patent to be invalidated is abandonment. This doesn't mean what you might expect. Say A has a patent on some process, and B comes along years later to patent an improvement that makes it practical. Does B need a license from A in order to use the combined product? Can depend on what A has been doing since his or her patent was issued. If he has not been trying to improve his process or product, he may be found to have abandoned the patent.

Oh, also one thing that patent owners tend to misunderstand. If I 'practice' your patent in order to study it or improve it, that is not infringement. If I sell my product, or a product made using your product that may be infringement.

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