Sci-Fi fantasy or Engineering Reality?
Holographic technologies have been fantasied and theorised about over the past half century. The scientific community and sci-fi fans know that the best way to make true 3D images is by using holographic technology. However, this has proved to be a very difficult technical challenge to realise in practice, from a manufacturing, computation and bandwidth perspective.
A hologram is a 2D surface that can scatter light, using the physical principles of diffraction, to form 3D shapes both in front of and behind this surface. Diffraction occurs when light is scattered by objects that are about the same size as the light itself - around 500 nanometres.
Instead of trying to create a mythical "Star Wars" display, Holoxica took a more pragmatic approach by asking "what is the simplest holographic display we can make?". The answer: a single pixel, or voxel, in 3D space, that can be switched on or off. One voxel is not particularly interesting, so we move on to two voxels and worked up from there to 4 to 9 to 16 voxels and so on. We are now at several million voxels. Holoxica's bottom-up approach is scalable and can be realised with currently available commodity technologies.
We are currently working on our third generation holographic display, which leverages the work we have done with the previous generations. The aim is to create a volumetric space in mid-air with independently addressable voxels in (x,y,z). If these voxels are sufficiently numerous and dense, then this will approximate a display. After all, a digital display is nothing more than a bunch of dots next to each other.
Planar/HUD Interactive Display
The second-generation display was announced in 2013. This is a planar Head-Up Display (HUD) with hundreds of thousands voxels and freeform images floating in mid-air that can change in real time. Interactivity is added with a Kinect motion sensor that allows you to 'touch' icons in free space and 'draw' in mid-air. The images are bright and visible under indoor lighting conditions, and the approach is scalable, leveraging existing manufacturing techniques and components.
Holoxica's first-generation holographic display demonstrator, built in 2010, had up to nine voxels and could show simple numeric information, icons, symbology etc. This technology can be used to build segmented 3D displays, similar to the early LCDs found in calculators and wristwatches. This approach is scalable and it's possible to realise all sorts of interesting products such as floating clocks or even 3D talking heads.
Static Digital Holograms
A digital hologram is a computer-generated hologram derived from a 3D graphics model that is produced using a special holoprinter device. Digital holograms are full-colour and only require illumination by a simple spotlight. It is possible to add simple animation or "channelling" to digital holograms such that they can show different images from different viewpoints. Holoxica can take any kind of 3D data and produce a digital hologram. These are used in teaching, training, presentation, outreach and exhibitions/trade shows.