Electronics

Mitsubishi Electric's "aerial display" projects images into mid-air

Mitsubishi Electric's "aerial ...
An aerial display image (cube at center) with so-called guide images to either side
An aerial display image (cube at center) with so-called guide images to either side
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An aerial display image (cube at center) with so-called guide images to either side
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An aerial display image (cube at center) with so-called guide images to either side
A diagram of how the aerial display system works
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A diagram of how the aerial display system works

As soon as the year 2020, you may be seeing advertising or other imagery floating before you. That's when Mitsubishi Electric hopes to have its "aerial display" technology perfected and commercially available. Already, it's capable of displaying images measuring up to 56 inches (142 cm) diagonally, hovering in the ether.

Here's how the aerial display system works …

The image, which can be a still or video, is displayed on a screen that sits perpendicular (and unseen) to the human viewer. Sitting diagonal to that screen is a beam splitter, which is a glass device that splits beams of light in two.

A diagram of how the aerial display system works
A diagram of how the aerial display system works

As a result, when the screen image is reflected off the back of the beam splitter, it becomes two duplicate images. These are in turn reflected off a retro-reflective sheet and through the beam splitter, converging in the air in front of the viewer. This causes the viewer to perceive a single image, dangling before them.

According to the designers, however, people find it hard to focus on such images when there's no way of telling where the image is. With that mind, the system also includes "guide images" that are projected onto walls (or other fixed surfaces) to either side of the floating image. Because viewers "get" where those images are, they can focus on them and then also on the aerial image between them.

The entire display area, including the two guide images, measures 90 inches (229 cm) diagonally.

Similar technology is utilized by the University of Tokyo's HaptoMime system, in which users can seemingly reach into a mid-air display.

Source: Mitsubishi Electric

6 comments
FollowTheFacts
....there is absolutely nothing new about this at all...clunky old "trickery" if you ask me...
Lbrewer42
Why is this hitting the modern news? Walt Disney used this same thing in the 50s when they built the Haunted Mansion's realistic looking ghost effects. As a kid I used to do this using an old window as my "beam splitter" (ooh - sounds technical now) to make "holograms" people could interact with in my movies (or else they worked great for making laser beam shots). When VHS cameras came into being, I continued doing this very thing to make special effects of holograms interacting with people. When not filming, and the apparatus being fully revealed, the effect was there, but not stupendous at all b/c it is just a reflection. Welcome to the 1950s folks! It will be amazing to see where we go from here!
Firehawk70
Yeah you guys are both spot on. I arrived at this article hoping to read something about some cool laser thing that vaporizes air into some color-transforming plasma or some science-magic thing like that. Instead it's literally smoke and mirrors, again.
Oun Kwon
You will see at the air port near the airline counter. Unless 3 D hologram (like in Quantum Leap TV series with Mr. Bakula, it would be of children's toy level.
oldguy
I'm thinking back to the days of what we called 'Photographic Effects' in the movie business and a device called the 'Airiel Image Optical Printer' It seems there is nothing new under the sun, just new applications.
oldguy
By the way, I dont think the Disney ride experience was created with a true ariel image. This was a trick called 'peppers ghost' used in a whole lot of magic shows even today. Its just a reflection on the first surface of a piece of high quality glass. Its still effective though and I still like to see it used.