Holographic TV could be here by 2020

It's been a holy grail of display technology for a long time: true 3D holograms that you don't need special glasses to see. Think R2-D2's projection of Princess Leia in Star Wars, only not as fuzzy and in full color. The barriers keeping holograms from becoming reality are many, but researchers at the University of Arizona (go Wildcats!) in the Optical Sciences department have broken through one of them. They've created an image that's "updatable," so the hologram can be completely erased and rewritten in minutes. That's not quite fast enough for holographic TV — or even holographic YouTube — since for a hologram to depict motion, it would have to be rewritten several times a second. The researchers think that'll eventually happen, though.

This is a very promising development, but we'll need a lot more (and probably some corporate interest) for holographic TV to become something you can actually buy. It'll also need good execution: while 3D images would be great for many movies, I'm not really dying to see the back of Anderson Cooper's head. The idea of a coffee table that projects holograms upward (shown in the illustration above) has been floated, but I don't see that being much more than a toy for the rich ("Coming Soon: Microsoft Surface in 3D!), and other techs like the Heliodisplay already come pretty close to simulating it.

Still, it would be great to finally see that scene from the first Star Wars finally become reality. Japan's Communications Ministry has set a goal for creating holographic TV by 2020, and perhaps this development is just what they need to jump-start the program. In any case, that plasma screen you just bought probably won't be obsolete for a while yet.