Cheap Holographic Video Coming to Consumers
The full-color image is produced by a chip that costs just 4 percent of what it's predecessors did.
CREDIT: MIT Media Lab
Forget about 3D glasses. Holographic monitors — which render images that, even to the naked eye, seem to float in space — could soon become an affordable reality for the masses. Researchers at MIT say they have cut the cost of producing key components that until now have kept holographic video displays as being only expensive lab projects costing tens of thousands of dollars to a commodity costing about $200 and compatible with a regular PC.
In a new study published in the current issue of Nature, Daniel Smalley, a graduate student at MIT's Media Lab, outlined his work manufacturing an optical chip used to create color holographic videos for about $10 (about 6 percent of what it has cost), thus drastically bringing down the price of the whole system. Smalley built a prototype display that renders color holographic video at resolutions equal to that of a standard-definition TV. [See also: Cheaper 3D Boasts Titanic Entertainment]
Smalley's breakthrough was streamlining how holographic displays render images.
“Until now, if you wanted to make a light modulator (used for holographic video) for a video projector, or an LCD panel for a TV … you had to deal with the red light, the green light and the blue light [that make up a fill-color video] separately,” said study co-author Michael Bove, a research scientist at the Media Lab and head of its Object-Based Media Group.
Not only is the old method inefficient, it also blocks two-thirds of the light, resulting in reduced resolution, Bove explained.
Smalley's solution was to build an inexpensive processor that can modulate red, green and blue light simultaneously, thus enabling higher resolutions and more computational efficiency.
Bove predicts his team's breakthrough will lead to affordable and higher resolution holographic displays within the next 5 years.
The lab's new prototype holographic display is about the size of a postcard and can run off of an average PC running four high-end Nvidia graphic cards. [See video:Hologram Fashion Show]
Bove says component costs to build a holographic video display can now be reduced to about $200 and can plug into a regular PC. The only catch, he says, is the cost of the high-end video cards required to render the complex holographic video.
But Bove predicted that the costs of graphics cards will eventually come down, and a 30-inch holographic displays could soon become commonplace.
Another hurdle, he admits, will be reducing the bulk of the displays, currently about equal to that of an old CRT monitor.
MIT's holographic display technology has the potential of opening new doors for the gaming industry and Hollywood. It could also create new opportunities for high-end 3D video conferencing (a.k.a. telepresence) and computer-aided design used by engineers, Bove says.
"We have solved the problem of high-cost, low-quality holographic videos that have restrictive viewing angles," Bove says. "In five years you'll be able to buy a 30-inch 3D holographic video display that won't break the bank."