It seems as though everyone is fascinated with the possibilities and promises of a holographic 3D world. With major events such as Coachella and the London Olympics showing off the latest in hologram technology, it's not hard to desire the concept in theatres, stores or homes. Let's face it: Who doesn’t want to live in a place where holographic projections a la Star Wars communicate information?
Luckily, holographic technology is becoming much closer to entering our homes and our lives — it’s a future tech that’s well within our grasp. Mashable spoke with companies planning big things in the space in just the next few years, let alone 2020. All of these exciting innovations are coming our way, and it’s just the tip of the hologram iceberg.
What do you think of holograms and holographic technology? Let us know in the comments.
The History of the Hologram
Before we can understand where holographic technology is heading, there’s a lot to learn about where it came from.
Holograms actually began a life as a classic parlor trick known as "Pepper’s Ghost" — an illusion that took advantage of a well-angled mirror to "project" the reflection of a ghost in a secret, hidden room. This simple technique, dating back to 19th century phantasmagoria shows, is still used in some capacity today, most notably within Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, where the largest Pepper's Ghost installation resides to make guests feel as though they’ve entered a haunted ballroom.
Some elements of Pepper's Ghost were also used to achieve arguably the most talked-about hologram of 2012, the Tupac Hologram at Coachella. Instead of a so-called "real" hologram, the people at San Diego’s AV Concepts projected Tupac onto a piece of foil and utilized angled mirrors to put him on stage. Flashes of holographic images continued to crop up during major events within the past year, most notably the London 2012 Olympics and even hologram-style Beyonces during the halftime show of the Super Bowl.
However, nothing has yet to capture true hologram abilities. That is, the holograms everywhere largely are illusions rather than a native, glasses-free 3D projection or a multi-projector orchestration to produce a lifesize image. But, we're well on our way to accomplishing this.
The Next Phase
"We’ve created a very rich holographic experience through the first half of 2012, " says Paul Duffy, president of Rose and Thistle. "We didn’t know it at the time, but no one was taking holograms and adding multiple layers of depth or integrating it all into a product."
Rather than taking advantage of hidden rooms, Holographic Paramotion relies on a proscenium-style display box to reflect elements of the hologram onto the center of the stage. The system, called the ShowBox, can then be scaled to reflect the light sources available — big as a movie theater screen or as small as a television. Duffy says that the biggest challenge in developing a true hologram is surpassing the so-called "uncanny valley" to help the audience believe that the images on stage are actually real.
"If you’re thinking 'where in the future is holography going?' We found it in four key domains. The first one is the most important: the projection and illumination systems that allow you to deliver or view the images, " Duffy explains.
"That category of technology is undergoing an exponential growth right now — the ability to not just take the quality of the image but the brightness and illumination is increasing dramatically."
Rose and Thistle brought their product out to play, although still in beta testing, for a few big names already. One notable experience was a presentation for PBS's Quest Beyond the Stars, creating a snippet of a live holographic touring show that could explore the wonders of space via hologram. A second installation, for Canadian department store chain Holt Renfrew, showed off holographic models in the Toronto flagship outlet's display windows constantly during Fashion Week. Duffy says the goal for their products is not only quality, but consistency.