In this article we will discuss the following:
Creating the types of 3D holograms that are used to authenticate products or currency usually requires very expensive, very complex printers. That’s what makes them so hard to counterfeit. But a team of researchers from MIT have created a new kind of 3D hologram that can be printed on the inkjet printer you probably already have sitting on your desk.
Instead of using lenticular lenses to create a 2D motion effect, which really only works in one direction, Lumii’s holograms feature true 3D parallax movement in all directions, without the need for finding a “sweet spot” to really see the effect.
Using a custom image-processing algorithm the company developed that drew on work and research the team did while at MIT, a 3D model is broken down into multiple layers, which can be individually printed using an off-the-shelf inkjet printer. When stacked, with a small gap between the two, they create a convincing 3D effect, allowing the image to be examined from multiple angles.
Using clever computer imaging techniques to produce holograms on the cheap is a fun trick, and there are several smartphone apps that allow 3D models to be captured and generated for those who don’t know how to use complex modeling software.
A backlight is required to create the 3D effect with these layered holograms, but since airports, shopping malls, and even subways are already filled with those lightbox ads, Lumii believes advertisers would benefit most from its cheaper approach to holograms. When it looks like ads are leaping off the walls right at you, it could soon be impossible to ignore them.
Holograms are still mostly science-fiction fodder, but researchers at Queen’s University’s Human Media Lab have developed a prototype smartphone that uses holographic technology to display dynamic 3D images without the need for head tracking or annoying glasses.
So how is this possible when 3D TVs and movie theaters still require you to wear shutter or polarized glasses, and Nintendo’s 3DS relies on a front-facing camera to track the position of the user’s head and face? It all comes down to a clever trick with the HoloFlex phone’s unique display.
The device starts with a 1920 x 1080 resolution OLED touchscreen display, but images are displayed as an array of 12-pixel wide circles. When viewed through a special 3D-printed overlay that’s covered in 16,000 tiny fisheye lenses, those images appear to pop-off the screen. And as the phone is angled and moved around, 3D objects can be viewed from almost any angle.
The downside is that the images end up having a relatively poor resolution of just 160×104 pixels, but as screen resolutions and manufacturing technologies improve, eventually that special lens-covered overlay will be invisible to the naked eye.
But 3D images aren’t the HoloFlex phone’s only party trick. The OLED display it uses is completely flexible, allowing the phone to be bent and warped, introducing an additional element of interaction. Besides tapping the screen, and other touch gestures, users could play games like Angry Birds by physically bending the phone back to draw back the bird-launching slingshot. It also means if you were to forget about the HoloFlex in your back pocket when you sat done, there’s little risk of finding a shattered screen when you get back up.
Holographic Display Cases Could Help Museums Bring Artifacts to Life
Walking through a museum is a wonderful way to learn about history, but you can only glean so much by looking at a random object, or reading a tiny description of it. Using animated holograms, a company called ColliderCase wants to help bring museum exhibits to life.
For example, if you’re not an experienced navigator, it’s hard to understand how exactly a sextant works. And given the frailty of some artifacts, they can’t be physically demonstrated by museum staffers. But through the use of holograms projected onto crystal clear glass display cases, animations, simulations, and demonstrations could help illustrate why an exhibit was so important or how it was used.
The holograms could also be used to highlight important or notable areas of a delicate tapestry or document, without actually casting any light on the fabric or paper that could damage its colors. If you’ve ever visited the Star-Spangled Banner at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History which is kept in a dark display case, you’ll understand how this technology could be a valuable way to point out areas of note on the massive flag, without further damaging it.
The holographic display cases could also be a great way to grab a child’s attention who might otherwise be distracted by a smartphone or tablet in their hands. If it means they actually end up learning something while visiting a museum, instead of counting down the hours until they get to leave, we should install these everywhere.
Notorious B.I.G. Will Come Back to Life as a Hologram
The Tupac hologram is about to have some competition. According to a report from Billboard, Augmented Reality Holographic Technology Media, the company that purports to create “the world’s most believable human holograms,” has secured the digital rights for the Notorious B.I.G.’s hologram.
The pixelated version of the Brooklyn-born rapper, whose murder in 1997 is still unsolved, will reportedly make its first appearance in an upcoming music video for Faith Evans’ new single. (Evans, Biggie’s widow, also helps control his estate.) The hologram could then go on tour, according to ARHT Media founder Rene Bharti.
“This project has been a long-time coming, and it is very special to me,” Voletta Wallace, the late rapper’s mother, told Billboard. “Words can’t even capture how elated I am for the world to finally see my son again on stage and beyond.”
As for the hologram’s design, ARHT seems pretty chill about the whole thing. “We’ll use input from virtually anywhere so we’ll talk to people, we’ll obviously look through existing footage,” said CEO Paul Duffy. “We’ll meet with family members and just look to alternately capture the essence of Biggie.”
The prospect of a Biggie hologram arose in late March, when Faith Evans discussed the possibility on a radio show. Along with Tupac Shakur—whose weird, faux-hologram appeared at Coachella in 2012—Whitney Houston, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, and Michael Jackson have all been targeted in the celebrity hologram trend.
Hologram USA, a competing hologram company, had been behind many of these previous resurrections. The company was reportedly in talks to take over the rights for Biggie’s, but ARHT appears to have won that contest, though the idea of winning the rights to hologram a celebrity is an odd victory, to say the least.
Chief Keef’s Hologram Performances Keep Getting Shut Down
On Saturday night, police cut power at a concert in Hammond, Indiana, to censor a holographic performance by hip hop artist Chief Keef.
The Guardian reports that Chief Keef had just started performing at Craze Fest when police pulled the plug. He wasn’t really there, though. He was performing remotely from California, and appeared to the audience as a “hologram.” As with many other purported hologram performances in the past—ahem, Holopac–Chief Keef wasn’t really performing as a hologram (which would be incredible). The illusion is really a sophisticated video projection produced by a deceptively named company called Hologram USA. But hologram sounds so much cooler, right?
The event was a benefit for the family of Chef Keef’s friend Marvin Carr, who was shot and killed in Chicago last month, as well as for Dillan Harper, a 13-month-old who was killed by a car speeding away from the scene.
This is the second time that a Chief Keef hologram performance has been halted by authorities. Mr. Keef has outstanding warrants in Illinois, and his appearance in any form is seemingly being regarded by law enforcement as a threat to public welfare. From the story:
Chief Keef had performed by hologram owing to several arrest warrants against him in the neighbouring state of Illinois. However, other cities had refused to allow him to perform by hologram recently. Last weekend, a similar appearance in Chicago was cancelled after the staff of mayor Rahm Emanuel called him “an unacceptable role model” who “promoted violence” and whose presence, even via hologram, “posed a significant safety risk”.
A video at an anti-violence fundraiser being shut off by police is an absurd act of censorship. Of course, the entire performance was a stunt to begin with—and now, the officials who wanted to shut it down have elevated it to a national news story.
You Can Feel These Plasma Holograms Made With Femtosecond Lasers
With each passing year, engineers are getting closer to recreating the 3D interface technology that pop culture has rendered so clearly for decades.
Just last fall, a Japanese company called Burton Inc. unveiled a system that used lasers to create 3D displays in mid-air which, Burton said, could be used to notify people of emergencies. Now we’re seeing the evolution of that technology—but it’s definitely not being used to warn anyone of impending disasters. It’s being used as UI.
A paper submitted to SIGGRAPH—short for the Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques, which takes place in LA at the end of the summer—details how a group of researchers at the Digital Nature Group at University of Tsukuba managed to create small-scale holograms that are actually haptic and interactive—meaning you can feel them when you touch them.
The team calls these holograms “Fairy Lights,” but the technology they used is definitely less whimsical. The project uses a femtosecond laser—that is, a laser that emits pulses at super-fast, super-intense paces (for the record, a femtosecond is just 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 of a normal, eternity-spanning second). The pulses “excite” matter to create “voxels” of light, formed to draw 3D holograms at a resolution of “4,000 and 200,000 dots per second,” the authors explain.
Why does laser speed matter? Because the faster the laser, the safer for humans to touch. While a slower laser might even burn you, a femtosecond laser is firing so quickly that there’s less opportunity for it to hurt, as IEEE explains. But part of what makes Fairy Lights so interesting isn’t just that they’re safer. It’s that you can still feel them. “Shock waves are generated by plasma when a user touches the plasma voxels,” the authors write. “The user feels an impulse on the finger as if the light has physical substance.”
In other words, this is a new kind of haptic interface. One where the sensation on your skin isn’t cased by a linear actuator, like the Apple Watch uses, but rather the waves that are generated when you interact with plasma in mid-air.