Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Practical Holographic Video

The tyranny of two-dimensional computer and TV displays could soon be over. A team of MIT researchers has proposed a way to make a holographic video system that works with computer hardware for consumers, such as PCs with graphics cards and gaming consoles. The display, the researchers say, will be small enough to add to an entertainment center, provide resolution as good as a standard analog television, and cost only a couple hundred dollars.
A holographic video display could provide another way to view medical images such as MRIs and CT scans, as well as sets of complex, multidimensional data and designs for furniture and cars, says V. Michael Bove Jr., director of the consumer electronics program, CELab, at MIT. And the system would be a natural fit for displaying video games and virtual worlds. Most games now have sophisticated three-dimensional models sitting deep within their software, "but you don't see them because [the images are] rendered as a two-dimensional picture," Bove says.
The new system, called Mark III, is the third generation (following Mark I and Mark II) of MIT-designed holographic video displays that date back to the late 1980s. These earlier systems were "loud, finicky, required specialized computing hardware to generate a video signal, and were a general pain in the neck to work with," says Bove. A few years ago, he wondered if he could turn a laboratory-based holographic display system that cost tens of thousands of dollars into an affordable consumer product.
Bove and his team currently have a fourth generation of system lined up, which will be able to display an image as large as a desktop PC monitor; in contrast, the current system's displays are only about the size of a Rubik's Cube. Also, the current display is only capable of monochromatic holograms, but the fourth generation will have a full range of colors, Bove says.