Are holograms the next step for 3D tech?

3D TV sets and 3D movies are everywhere in 2010. 3D holograms could be next.

By , Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor

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    Holograms, once seen only in science-fiction movies, are swiftly becoming a reality.
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Forget regular old 3D movies, which have crowded the marketplace with alarming alacrity in recent months. Forget even 3D TV. How about a 3D hologram – a three-dimensional telepresence, of the kind once seen only in the most speculative of science-fiction flicks? The technology might be even closer than you think.

The current issue of the science journal Nature features an extensive report from a group of Arizona researchers who succeeded in creating a real-time image – one that can be viewed without glasses – from multiple angles. (Just like in "Star Wars"!) The image, the researchers said, is recorded using a battery of cameras:

The more cameras that are used, the more refined the final holographic presentation will appear.That information is then encoded onto a fast-pulsed laser beam, which interferes with another beam that serves as a reference. The resulting interference pattern is written into the photorefractive polymer, creating and storing the image. Each laser pulse records an individual "hogel" in the polymer. A hogel (short for holographic pixel) is the three-dimensional version of a pixel, the basic units that make up the picture.

"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," lead researcher Nasser Peyghambarian said in a statement. The technology could be used in a range of situations, from advertising to mapping. It could also be used for home entertainment. Imagine being able to watch "Monday Night Football"l in holographic form. Or playing holographic Mario.

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The mind reels.

Of course, it's been an exceptionally big year and a half for 3D movies and TV.

By the end of 2010, Toshiba is expected to release on the Japanese market a 3D television that uses some sort of autostereoscopy 3D technology – allowing users to watch 3D content without having to pull on a pair of those pesky glasses. "Many people don't like to wear glasses to watch TV for a long time, especially people who must wear 3-D glasses over regular glasses," a Toshiba rep pointed out in August.

True. Thus the forthcoming Nintendo 3DS, the hand-held system set for release in March. The device is a replacement for the aging DS hand-held, and will ship with two screens – one a touchscreen and the other a widescreen display capable of transmitting glasses-free 3D imagery. The Nintendo 3DS will reportedly get a price tag of about $300, relatively pricey for a hand-held gaming device, but relatively cheap for 3D tech.

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