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Forget holograms, try 3-D images floating in 'thin air'

By Tim Sandle     Jan 26, 2018 in Technology
In what's been called 'better than a hologram', researchers have produced 3-D images that appear to float in 'thin air'. This form of projection could lead to a new way of watching images and other content on smartphones.
A 3-D floating image is not a hologram, and it offers greater clarity and detail. A hologram is a photographic recording of a light field, used to display a fully three-dimensional image of the holographed subject. This can be seen without the aid of special glasses or other intermediate optics.
Instead, what the researchers have done is to produce a three-dimensional image that floats in air. With this a person can walk all the way around the image and view it from every angle. The technical term is a volumetric image. A movie-themed example would be the massive image-projecting table in Avatar. To achieve this, the researchers used an "Optical Trap Display" to create the volumetric images.
According to Engadget, the process makes use of lasers to trap a a tiny particle in free space. With this they can force a particle to move in a path, much like how electromagnets deflect the electron beam in old-style cathode ray tube televisions.
The following video gives more background to the research:
The research comes from Professor Daniel Smalley, of Brigham Young University. Drawing upon an iconic scene from Star Wars: A New Hope, the researcher has dubbed the study the "Princess Leia project." Discussing the study with his university's website, the researcher explains the background: "Our group has a mission to take the 3D displays of science fiction and make them real. We have created a display that can do that."
The research into the image projection has been published in the journal Nature. The peer-reviewed paper is called "A photophoretic-trap volumetric display."
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