- Holographic TV Now a Possibility
- Using simple off-the-shelf hardware, researchers at MIT have created a holographic system that updates almost as quickly as feature films. The group believes that holographic televisions could soon be possible.Now manufactured by several different brands and appearing in living rooms around the globe, 3-D television is one of this year’s hottest trends. But holographic TV, although it might sound like the technology of a sci-fi film, is following closely behind. New research suggests that holographic TVs could be available much sooner than previously thought.
In November, researchers at the University of Arizona created a holographic system capable of sending, receiving and displaying full-color, 3-D images. Although the system was used to send live images of a researcher in California to collaborators in Arizona, the display updated only every two seconds, making it much less fluid than today’s televisions.
Now, a new holographic system from researchers at MIT Media Lab has a display that updates 15 times per second. The researchers are confident that their holographic display will soon update even faster, with rates reaching the 24 frames per second of feature films or the 30 frames per second of TV.
According to the researchers, the main difference between 3-D and holographic images has to do with perspective. When a 3-D movie, such as Avatar, is shown in a theater, all members of the audience, regardless of position, see exactly the same image, which is filmed from the same perspective. A holographic image, on the other hand, changes as a viewer moves around it—just like the real world.
This difference in perspective relies largely on the light source for a film. Most 3-D cameras, for example, capture light reflecting off of objects from two angles—one for each eye. In the real world, however, light reflects from an infinite number of angles. Holographic video cameras thus capture light from many more angles than 3-D cameras.
The team of MIT researchers built their holographic camera using only off-the-shelf hardware, including Xbox’s Kinect camera.
“Really, the focus of our work in digital holography — and I think this makes us pretty much unique among the very small community of people in the world even doing holovideo — is that we’re trying to make a consumer product,” said Michale Bove in a statement. “So we’ve been saying, ‘How do you make it as cheap as possible — take advantage of hardware and standards and software and everything else that already exists?’ Because that’s the quickest way to bring it to market.” Bove, who lead the holograph team, is head of the Object-Based Media Group at MIT Media Laboratory.
In the system’s basic setup, a Kinect camera sends image data to an ordinary laptop, which transmits it over the Internet. A receiving PC then computes the diffraction patterns using three commercial graphics processing units (GPUs).
The only component of the system that isn’t off-the-shelf is the holographic display. Bove’s display is built off of the research of Stephen Benton, who built the first holographic display in the 1980s and died in 2003. Unlike older models, the new display—called the Mark-II—is compact, produces larger images, and should be less expensive to produce.
In addition to a more lifelike image, holographic televisions wouldn’t require users to wear glasses, like 3-D TVs do.
In January, the research team presented their system at the Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers’ (SPIE) Practical Holography conference in San Francisco. A video of their holographic system can be viewed here.