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Science, Technology

Technology Update: Holographic Television is Here!

It’s official: TV is dead. Forget video conferencing and watching Eastenders in two dimensions. The future is here: Enter the world of real 3D TV… without the glasses!

Last week I visited the London Science Museum and saw ‘Hubble 3d’ in an IMAX cinema. I’m not normally easily won over by new technologies; but the illusion of planes and spaceships jumping out of the screen was incredible! It’s no wonder film and TV companies are clamouring to ditch ‘old-fashioned’ 2D.  This year’s CES, an international fair for showcasing new technology, was dominated by companies showing off their new 3D TV’s.

3D glasses: Beautiful!

But watching 3D TV and movies would be so much better if you didn’t have to have an unflattering pair of 3D glasses stuck to your face. They’re ugly, uncomfortable, and dim the colours: When I saw Toy Story 3D I even came out of the cinema with eyestrain and a headache! Up until now, glasses have been the only way to watch three dimensions on a flat screen.

3D TV Without the Glasses?

But is there a solution? Sci-Fi fans will remember with relish the scene from the original 1979 Star Wars movie when a holographic recording of Princes Lea appears from the side of the dwarf robot, R2D2:

“Help me Obi Wan Kanobi your my only hope!”

I’m not sure if Luke Skywalker is looking dumbfounded because of the holographic technology or Princess Lea’s good looks!

The future is indeed here (well, almost): A team of scientists in Arizona, USA have just successfully trialled the world’s first real-time holographic movie system. Holographic display systems have been around for a while now, but they normally show only one static image. A couple of years ago the team from Arizona developed a system that could update every couple of minutes. Now they are able to do it much faster and they are able to record and  play holographic movies and transmit them over the internet virtually instantly.

Coming to a living room near you?

So, in a few years time none of us need leave our house to go to work: we could just project ourselves where ever we need to be!

If you want to find out more about how 3D movies work, click here!

References:

 Tay, Savaş; Blanche, P.-A.; Voorakaranam, R.; Tunç, A. V.; Lin, W.; Rokutanda, S.; Gu, T.; Flores, D.; Wang, P.; Li, G.; St Hilaire, P.; Thomas, J.; Norwood, R. A.; Yamamoto, M.; Peyghambarian, N. An updatable holographic three-dimensional display.  Nature. 2008 Feb 7;451(7179):694-8.

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About Stuart Farrimond

I love writing about science and health subjects. Strange, because I also teach the same things. I trained as a medical doctor before turning my hand to other things. Shortlisted for The Guardian/Observer for Science Writer of the Year 2011 and editor for Guru Magazine I also like to grow large pumpkins...

Discussion

9 thoughts on “Technology Update: Holographic Television is Here!

  1. Hello again Dr Stu
    Gotta say I love the idea of certain movies in 3D Holographic format.
    David Cronenburg’s 1986 re-make of “The Fly” springs to mind….. It is a splatter-fest beyond compare and to actually have it on my coffee table in the sitting room in 3D would be terrific!!!!!!!!!
    As for using it to work from home……… naaah… What with the Internet, email, video conferencing, e-commerce etc etc etc, we have little enough face to face contact with other human beings as it is. One of the best things about going to work is meeting other people. Isn’t it???
    Anyway, just off for a bowl of Coco Pops and a vitamin pill.

    Take care my friend, and keep up the excellent work with this blog!!

    Pete

    Posted by Pete Robertson | November 9, 2010, 10:15 pm
  2. I saw ‘Nightmare on Elm Street’ recently – I think if I watched that in holographic format, I don’t think I’d sleep for a week!
    I agree – I think I’d go mad if I didn’t see anyone. In fact the times that I have been out of work, I definately started to develop cabin-fever!
    Just think: you’re keeping your teeth and bones nice and healthy with the milk on those coco pops! Even nicer when it’s gone chocolatey brown, Mmmm…
    Thanks Pete!

    Posted by Stuart Farrimond | November 9, 2010, 10:42 pm
  3. I confess I

    Posted by Andrew Smith | November 14, 2010, 7:51 pm
  4. I don’t normally respond to blogs, but, having earned my living producing tv and film for thirty years, and as course leader for the exemely popular BA (Hons) Film Production & Cinematography course at Wiltshire College- (1200 applicants last year), I’m prepared to make an exception in this case!

    The ‘TV is dead’ headline comes round every couple of years, alternating with it’s ‘ Film is dead’ sibling. Someone thinks they’ve developed a gizmo which promises to tweak, change or revolutionise film and/or telly to the point of extinction. For the past ten years we’ve routinely been told that the internet would ensure the death of both. What happened? Exactly the same number of viewers tune in to terrestrial tv now as they did ten years ago, with many, many more viewers watching via technologies like iPlayer .
    Have film or telly died? I don’t think so.

    Go back further to when telly first stalked the land in the mid fifties and sixties – tv was going to kill film. Did it ? Err no. It is however worth recalling that one of the gizmos developed to lure audiences back to the cinema was…3d cinema. Did it work? Err no. What worked was cinema re-inventing itself and telling stories that connected with new audiences – cue Speilberg, and the rest.

    3D tv, holographs, smellovision, the internet or some technical bauble not yet dreamt of, may well affect the fringes of screen entertainment , but the reason we all keep watching screens, small or large is STORY.

    Need more proof ? Easy……. Fifty years ago the most popular programme on British tv was Coronation Street. Guess what? The most consistently popular programme on British TV in 2010 is ….Coronation Street. No 3d, no hologram, no gimmicks. Great stories, great acting and consistently high production values.

    I could go on, but my high horse is getting a little tired. Suffice to say…TV isn’t dead, film isn’t dead, and neither are they likely to ‘die’ any time soon.

    And 3d TV? As Stephen K Amos said this week ‘ Isn’t 3D TV just called ……’the theatre?’.

    Posted by Andrew Smith | November 14, 2010, 8:58 pm
    • Thanks Andrew – Brilliant stuff and much food for thought!
      I almost feel a pang of guilt for having used the tabloid-esque opener ‘TV is dead’; But am all the same delighted that you have given me such a robust rebuttal!
      You’re absolutely right: very rarely does a new technology make an existing medium obsolete. Sure, CDs and mp3s have replaced audio tapes and vinyl; Likewise DVDs and Blu Ray have replaced VCRs. But the actual medium remains unchanged: we still listen to music and radio, as well as TV and film.
      Much like facebook, twitter and Skype have supplemented existing forms of communication (e.g. telephone), they have not replaced them.
      But it is interesting that new technologies can change people’s habits: we now write far fewer letters than fifty years ago thanks to email. We are more likely to text message friends rather than call them to arrange a night out.
      3D TV and holographic film aren’t going to replace existing viewing media for a long time (if ever) but it will be interesting to see how much new these new technologies change our attitudes to viewing and our viewing habits…
      I wholeheartedly agree with your point on good story-telling. All the best movies, TV programmes, preachers and teachers have one thing in common – they tell a good story!
      (Incredibly, we are designed for stories: the brain has a particular area that is designed to remember only story and narrative! Most people remember stories better than anything else!)
      🙂

      Posted by Stuart Farrimond | November 14, 2010, 9:51 pm
  5. I’ m possibly a little out of my depth on this one compared to Andy (who obviously knows his stuff), but as a punter, and a fairly undiscerning one at that, (after all, my favourite film of all time is Jacques Turneur’s “Night Of The Demon”) I have to say that Andy seems to have talked a great deal of sense……

    Posted by Pete Robertson | November 26, 2010, 8:43 pm

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