One of the dreams of science fiction authors and enthusiasts over the years has been the replacement of normal TV with some kind of three dimensional video. The idea of this has cropped up numerous times in Sci-fi books and movies. For example, in Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein had his characters watching a device that was like a TV but appeared to have depth in inside of the box that portrayed the video in 3-D. The device was disguised as a realistic looking fish tank when not in use. Holographic displays with images floating in the air have been common in numerous movies over the years, ranging from Star Wars movies to the original Dune movie. The more recent iterations of Star Trek envisioned the "holodeck" where characters immersed themselves in highly realistic representations of everything from their home planets to the plots of nineteenth century crime novels.
While it's admittedly difficult to imagine a computer generated virtual reality based on holograms as realistic as Star Trek's holodeck (which included objects and characters that felt solid) being a reality in the near future, there are a lot of companies that are working on various forms of three dimensional TV. For example, Phillips has already produced a three dimensional TV set that has been used at various kinds of consumer technology conferences, and will be available to consumers next year. While not truly holographic, this technology does provide a very realistic three dimensional view of the contents of the screen. Phillips' three dimensional TV set is designed to project views of its subject from several different angles at once so that viewers get slightly different views of the contents of the screen in each eye, thereby creating the illusion of three dimensions.
There are also a number of companies in the process of developing true holographic TV. One type of technology called Cheoptics360 provides an image that seems to float in the air in front of the viewer. It takes advantage of four separate projection devices to make it so that the image can be viewed from all sides instead of just in front. While this technology is still in the developmental stage, there's a lot of interest in it among advertising firms that are looking for new ways to get the attention of consumers and there are a number of obvious military applications for it.
One stumbling block of this technology though is producing enough content in 3-D to make it worth buying one of these devices. While a TV like device that can produce three dimensional images is difficult to manufacture, filming content in 3-D is even more difficult. For example, in order for an object to be filmed in three dimensions, some kind of camera has to be positioned on all sides. That means that cameras may be visible in the background of the object on all sides. Of course, it might be possible to crop the background away from the object so that just the object is showing, but presumably there would be some kind of a screen positioned behind the object that would display a two dimensional background and possibly three dimensional mid ground. If that background and mid ground doesn't contain cameras of some sort, then does that mean that the truly three dimensional objects in the foreground have to be digitally inserted? And if that's the case, it would be impossible to watch live programming in 3D. All of these questions will have to be ironed out in order for holographic TV technology to be realistic.
Posted by larry dixon at 09:14:00. Filed under: General