Help me Obi-Wan . . .


Help me Obi-Wan . . .


“More than 30 years after the Star Wars film scene in which a hologram of Princess Leia appealed for help from Obi-Wan Kenobi, researchers have unveiled holographic technology to transmit and view moving three-dimensional images.” (Clive Cookson, Financial Times).

This is the stuff that makes me crazy and excited all at the same time.  It makes me crazy because we’ve been working with our partners for years to improve digital signage presentation, presence and content delivery – and just when I think we’re getting pretty good at it – BOOM – game changer comes along.  It makes me excited because, on one hand, I am a science fiction nerd and love new technology, and on the other hand, think we’re pretty good at capitalizing on new technologies for our clients.

Scientists at the University of Arizona say their prototype “holographic three-dimensional telepresence” is the first practical 3D transmission system that works without requiring viewers to wear special glass or other devices.  The research is published in the journal Nature. What’s important to remember is that this isn’t the first use of 3D without glasses or other devices – it’s just the first that involves the transmission system.

According to the article, potential applications range from teleconferencing to mass entertainment.  “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,” said Nasser Peyghambarian, project leader.  Existing 3D projection systems produce either static holograms with excellent depth and resolution, but no movement, or stereoscopic films, such as Avatar, which give the perspective from one viewpoint only and do not allow the viewer to walk around the image.  The new technology combines motion with an impression of genuine solidity.

The heart of the system is a new photographic polymer developed by the California research labs of Nitto Denko, the Japanese electronic materials company.  A 3D image is recorded with an array of cameras, capturing the object from different positions, and is then encoded digitally in a fast-pulsed laster beam, which creates holographic pixels or “hogels” in the polymer.  The image itself results from an optical interference pattern between two laser beams.  The prototype has a 10-inch monochrome viewing screen and the picture refreshes every two seconds – too slow to convey natural movement.  But researchers are confident that it will be possible to develop a full color system large enough to capture the human body and fast enough to give smooth movements.  Profession Peyghambarian said it would take seven to 10 years before a consumer version was ready to test in people’s homes.

Our thought immediately turn to digital signage.  As digital signage becomes more common, it is becoming difficult to stand out from a crowd.  It used to be that moving pictures in a mall storefront, for example, would be so unique that it was enough to capture consumer attention.  Now, every store has a TV in the window and people don’t even give motion a second glance.  We are continually challenged to develop new technologies, along with better-targeted content, to capture attention.  We’ve done projection onto glass, interactive displays, gesture-based displays, laser directed sound and even 3D projection using mist.  I am confident that the first groups that can develop and successfully install screens using this technology will have a distinct competitive advantage.  However, as everyone employs the technology, it will still come down to the same principles as today – targeted delivery of effective content.

I believe that we’re one of those groups that can take advantage (early adoption) and continue to stay ahead of the competition.  That’s why I’m more excited than crazy.

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