In 1977, a small robot by the name of R2-D2 amazed moviegoers when it beamed a 3D image of Princess Leia on the big screen. The scene not only propelled Star Wars to instant pop culture hit, but it also left people with a burning desire to project holograms of themselves in real life. More than 40 years have passed since that iconic moment and still, no holograms can be seen dancing in the streets just like in the Blade Runner movies. Attempts at making holograms have been made, and many were successful, however, the techniques are costly and not easily replicable. Yet, according to a recent study, holograms are closer to reality than we may previously have thought.
Researchers have been able to imprint unseen specks in the air to form 3-D images that are said to be more detailed than the holograms we know. The specks are manipulated using lasers, an act which can be compared with the tractor beam from Star Trek, according to Daniel Smalley, the lead author of the study.
Smalley, who is an electrical engineering professor at the Brigham Young University in Rochester, states that the technique involves “printing something in space, just erasing it very quickly”.
Professor Smalley and his colleagues trapped a cellulose particle using a violet laser which can’t be seen with the naked eye. The particle was then moved rapidly through space all the while being illuminated by other colored lasers to make the image visible. Because of its fast movements, the viewer would only see a single image floating in the air.
“We know intellectually that it’s just one spot, but our eyes will integrate if it goes too fast,” Smalley noted.
The new device has been dubbed the Optical Trap Display, and so far it was able to generate tiny objects such as the university’s butterfly logo. Unlike previous holograms, these shapes can be observed from any angle, regardless of the viewer’s position. All the images were less than 3 centimeters wide, big enough to be visible on the tip of a single finger.
The study was published in the journal, Nature.
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