When you look back on science fiction movies from '60s and '70s, it's clear that Hollywood writers are generally poor prognosticators. While the technology at our fingertips continues to grow by leaps and bounds, engineers still have yet to develop flying cars or equipment that can beam a person from one place to another. Disappointing, I know.
However, a group of scientists from the University of Arizona are dangerously close to perfecting a technology that was inspired by a scene from the classic film Star Wars, where R2D2 projects a three-dimensional holographic image of Princess Leia delivering her famous plea.
Nasser Peyghambarian, an optical sciences professor at the university, and his colleagues have been working hard to make three-dimensional holographic viewing a reality, and they are getting much closer.
According to a report published in the Nov. 4 issue of the scientific journal Nature, Peyghambarian and his team have successfully created a new type of holographic telepresence that makes it possible to project and modify a three-dimensional image that can be seen without special glasses.
"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.
"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," he added.
The prototype device contains a 10-inch screen made of novel photorefractive material that can refresh a hologram every two seconds, which is as close to real-time as scientists have ever achieved with holographic technology.
To test the device, the team used 16 high-tech cameras to record a short movie of a researcher sitting in the middle of a room. The images were then consolidated and converted into a pulsed laser. After working out the kinks, the team was able to display the researcher and his movements in real 3-D.
Peyghambarian and his colleagues are currently working on a 17-inch screen with more cameras that should be able to refresh 3-D images even quicker.
The researchers believe that the technology, if perfected, could be used for remote conferencing, entertainment and medical purposes.
Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca