Electronics

Disney's "Holobricks" could stack up for larger holograms

Disney's "Holobricks" could st...
Top: A hologram of a toy train recreated by two Holobricks side by side. Bottom: the original image
Top: A hologram of a toy train recreated by two Holobricks side by side. Bottom: the original image
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Top: A hologram of a toy train recreated by two Holobricks side by side. Bottom: the original image
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Top: A hologram of a toy train recreated by two Holobricks side by side. Bottom: the original image

Holograms are one of sci-fi’s longest promised technologies, and one of real science’s longest-running disappointments. Scientists at Cambridge and Disney Research may be a step closer to making them less disappointing, creating new “holobricks” that can stack and tile together to produce large 3D images that can be viewed from multiple angles.

Holograms are three-dimensional virtual images that appear to exist within the real world instead of on a screen. They can be produced in a range of different ways with different results, such as reflective screens, projections onto 3D columns of fog, or the classic “Pepper’s Ghost” illusion famously used to create the late Tupac Shakur’s 2012 Coachella performance.

The problem is, most of these holograms suffer from low resolution or narrow viewing angles. The new system, from Cambridge and Disney, is designed to boost the picture quality with scalable, modular holographic blocks, or holobricks as the team calls them.

Each holobrick is made up of a spatial light modulator, a scanner, and coarse integrated optics. Altogether, this system combines three images of the same object from slightly different angles, which creates a sense of depth. That light is then sent through a series of lenses that separates the images, so that when it appears on the 2D display on the surface of the holobrick, it creates three different views, based on the angle of any given viewer.

Essentially, that means that as you walk around the screen, your view of the virtual object or scene changes with you, creating the illusion that it’s right there in the real world with you. Each holobrick can display images in full color, with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels, a 40-degree field of view and at a cinematic frame rate of 24 frames per second.

The holobricks are also modular, allowing the size of the holograms to be increased. The viewing area runs all the way to the edges of the surface, so that multiple holobricks can be set next to or stacked on top of each other, with each one projecting a small section of the total image.

While there’s still plenty of work left to do to improve the technology, the researchers say that the holobricks could open up possibilities like holographic video walls or interactive kiosks – and with Disney behind it, it’s easy to imagine this kind of thing eventually being on display in theme parks.

The research was published in the journal Light: Science & Applications.

Source: Cambridge

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