HP Labs' new 3D display could make Star Wars-like holograms real

Credit: HP Labs

It was only a couple of years ago when 3D was being touted as the next must-have feature in every gadget, but we all know how that fizzled out. The main issue with 3D devices is that they need glasses to work. Even glasses-free 3D gadgets tend to fall short because of the poor viewing angles. And while 4K resolution may be the next big thing for displays, HP has a cooler idea: a 3D display that produces hologram-like videos and images that actually works like the ones you see in sci-fi movies.

As MIT Technology Review explains, HP Labs' display is a modified LCD that uses nanopatterned grooves to scatter light in different directions. These "directional pixels," as HP researcher David Fattal calls them, reflect different light rays off of an object and sends the different images to a person's left and right eye, thus tricking them into seeing a hologram-like image.

The beauty to HP Labs' 3D display is that it has multiple viewpoints, as opposed to the single perspective that regular 3D offers. This means you can look at the "holographic" content from multiple angles without 3D glasses and it won't look like a blurry mess that wants to make you vomit. HP Labs' researchers claim static images have 200 viewpoints and videos have 64 viewpoints at 30 frames per second, meaning that you can potentially walk all the way around them, seeing the image from the sides and back as well as the front.

Although we're unlikely to have holographic communications in our homes in the near future, Fattal believes one day they could be built into a gadgets like smart watches to display things like Google Maps in 3D. As with all new formats, the main challenge isn't manufacturing the 3D displays, but producing content for it. Creating content for HP's 3D holographic display could prove challenging, since a holographic image would need an image for each viewpoint. So, 200 different images for a flat image and 64 different angles for video. Check out a prototype in the video below.

HP Labs, via MIT Technology Review

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