Scientists make large-scale holographic displays an affordable reality

A new method of creating holographic video displays is making the technology not only cheaper, but possible to produce on a large scale, making holographic advertising such as Back to the Future II’s attacking poster for Jaws 19 a potential reality.

Developed by scientists at Brigham Young University (BYU) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the technology uses surface acoustic waves in specific patterns to control the angle and colour composition of the emitted light, creating the hologram’s shape and look.

“We can use this technology to make simple and inexpensive color waveguide displays — including inexpensive holographic video displays,” explained Daniel E Smalley, assistant professor of electrical engineering at BYU.

“This can drop the cost of a holographic video display from tens of thousands of dollars to less than a thousand.”

holographic-waveguide

One of the many waveguide devices that form BYU’s holographic display.

At the core of the technology is a surface of lithium niobate (LiNbO3), a crystal with excellent optical properties.

Below its surface, the scientists created tiny channels known as waveguides, which confine the light. They then added a metal electrode onto each waveguide that produces the surface acoustic waves that project and control the light as a hologram.

In this way, each waveguide effectively functions as a pixel, together creating the overall image.

One of the key benefits of this technology is the colour possibilities, as it creates a new type of colour display.

“For a wavelength display, we don’t need to rely on color filter wheels or dedicated red and blue pixels,” explained Smalley.

Instead, any colour is possible simply by altering the frequency sent to the waveguide.

“We can colour the output of our display by ‘colouring’ the frequencies of the drive signal,” said Smalley.

“As a bonus, this interaction also rotates the polarization of the signal light so that we can use a polarizer to eliminate any noise in the system.”

holographic-display

BYU’s holographic video monitor.

While the technology has proved to be successful, there is still some way to go before we’ll be attacked by holographic creatures promoting the latest blockbusters.

The scientists’ next step, which they are currently working on, is to make the technology work on displays the size of rooms.

Once successful, however, their technology is likely to be welcomed by advertising companies looking for the next high-impact way to reach consumers. And when that happens, it will only be a matter of time before holograms become a common sight in our towns and cities.


Featured image screenshot from Back to the Future II. Inline images courtesy of D Smalley/BYU.


 

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Apple’s co-founder Steve “Woz” Wozniak has found himself a new gig; Woz has joined the hologram emoji company, Mojiit, as an adviser.

In his role as advisor to Mojiit, the legendary entrepreneur and engineer will help assemble a world-class engineering team in addition to bringing investors and partnerships to the newly launched startup. Wozniak will also serve as mentor to Mojiit founder, Jeremy Greene.

“I’m thrilled to join Mojiit as an advisor,” said Wozniak. “Jeremy is a natural leader, the company is groundbreaking, it’s going to change the ecommerce space, and it’s a lot of fun.”

Created in 2017, Mojiit is the latest startup technology venture from Greene. The company’s tech essentially enables users to project and share 3D hologram emojis via smartphones.

The platform turns users into emojis by scanning their face, which can then be sent to loved ones and friends. Once a Mojiit message is received, it will map the area where it is received and place the Mojiit hologram there in real time, so it works in a similar way to Pokemon Go.

“Steve is one of the best and brilliant engineers in the entire world. But outside of that, he’s a wonderful man,” said Greene. “There isn’t anyone I’d want to be in business with more than this guy. He’s a legend. Who better to learn from than the guy who created the computer?”

Image courtesy of Nichollas Harrison. Featured image courtesy of Mojiit

In addition to consumer use, businesses of all kinds can tap into hologram emojis with Mojiit’s technology.

Mojiit investors already  include NFL alum Ed Reed, and the company was able to raise a total of $1 million in its seed round of funding.

Alongside the appointment of Woz, Entourage and Ballers producer Rob Weiss recently joined the company as a creative director.

“It’s exciting to expand beyond television and film to digital platforms,” said Weiss. “Hologram technology brings incredible opportunity to entertainment and media. I’m thrilled to be leading creative at Mojiit.”