It seems to have been an age since Microsoft unveiled its ‘HoloLens’, although in reality, it was only a year ago. Remember that? Microsoft showed someone walking around their house with a pair of funky goggles interacting with various floating things, such as a calendar and a weather app. Of course, this isn’t proper hologram technology as many of us would think about it. But how close are we from actual hologram technology? Or at least something that resembles holograms anyway.
In all honesty, not that close. If you’re expecting Star Wars esc blue people to come shooting out of a table (or the new BB-8 droid which you just had to get for Christmas), you’re going to be disappointed. However, there may be a new hope on the horizon. A team in South Korea, made up of 16 different researchers, has just recently developed the first colour 360-degree 3D hologram. The Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced in early December last year that they had developed a holographic image which incorporates red, green, and yellow on a tabletop. In reality, it looks like a little (3 inches to be exact) stuttering Rubik’s cube.
Ok, so it’s not quite Princess Leia, but they had to start somewhere. Before this, the only real attempt at holograms was a modification of a 16th century visual technique, known as ‘Pepper’s Ghost’, which is reflecting an image to form an optical illusion. You may or may not remember Tupac being brought back from the dead in 2012, due to Pepper’s Ghost hologram technology. The team working in Korea today is now committed to working on miniaturizing the tech, improving the resolution and quality of the image, and making the image larger. They hope to work on this for the next 5 years. The dream of this group is to create a 10-inch holographic TV set by 2021. They even want to be able to send holographic images via 5G in the future. Mind blowing stuff, especially if you’re a sci-fi fan.
Interactive holograms may be on the way as well. Last year a team in Tokyo came up with the ‘Haptoclone’, an interactive hologram. In truth it also partially uses the idea of Pepper’s Ghost, but combines ultrasonic technology to give actual tactile feedback. It’s not perfect, and the device is quite large and bulky, but once again, it has so much potential.
So maybe true holograms, interactive or not, aren’t that close to mass production and public use. However, the technology and the inclination are there, and so the first steps have already been taken towards a world steeped in holographic light!