Skype? So yesterday. Telecommuting robots? Too expensive. The next wave of videoconferencing will be 3-D, full color holographic display systems—that is, if researchers at the University of Arizona get their way.
Holographic displays aren't entirely new. The first video holographic display was built at MIT in 1989. And two years ago, the same University of Arizona group involved in the research discussed here built a prototype that could refresh holograms every four minutes. The most recent prototype, which uses a material called PATPD/CAAN (polyacrylic tetraphenyldiaminobiphenyl/carbaldehyde aniline), refreshes every two seconds—marking the first time that an optical material can show off holographic video, according to IEEE Spectrum.
The researchers explain in Nature:
Here we use a holographic stereographic technique and a photorefractive polymer material as the recording medium to demonstrate a holographic display that can refresh images every two seconds. A 50 Hz nanosecond pulsed laser is used to write the holographic pixels. Multicoloured holographic 3D images are produced by using angular multiplexing, and the full parallax display employs spatial multiplexing. 3D telepresence is demonstrated by taking multiple images from one location and transmitting the information via Ethernet to another location where the hologram is printed with the quasi-real-time dynamic 3D display.
Translation: a bunch of cameras (16, to be exact) take two-dimensional pictures of an object at different angles every second, a desktop PC converts the images into data, and a laser recording system send the data via Ethernet link to the hologram location, where a four by four inch hologram pops up.
That's a small picture, and a refresh rate of every two seconds isn't fast enough to compete with 3-D displays already on the market. But considering that the University of Arizona researchers managed to double their hologram refresh rate in just two years, don't be surprised to see viable holographic technology in the next decade. Star Wars, here we come.