Jan 24, 2011

Has the industry hit a wall or is it just quiet before the storm?

Recently the Sony Ray Modeler prototype was revealed. Granted, it’s not exactly true 3D holographic video but certainly a step in the right direction. And in Tokyo, Toshiba’s own Reiko Fukushima, the researcher who led in the development of the Cell display system that allows for viewing of 3D without the use of eye wear, is absolutely admirable but hardly groundbreaking. What will the next eureka invention be and when will we get a glimpse of it?
Einstein said “imagination is more important than knowledge”. Obviously, I’d be a fool not to agree with ol’ Albert and I can certainly imagine true 3D holographic images projected in mid air. I am not alone, I’m sure. The entertainment industry has been imagining this capability for decades and on that note, someone recommended that I watch G.I. Joe (Rise of the Cobra) because of its hilarious interpretation of holographic communication. (I want my 118 minutes back please!). Especially when seen from behind, the “holographic” image seemed completely ridiculous and defying all laws of physics. Then again, this movie did not really play to the realists among us and there should, of course, be room for speculation and imagination …… but seriously?
Star wars holograms are more "realistic"
The reason why I mention this very terrible movie is that it raises an interesting point about the nature of holography. What random inventions do we need to make for us to get to actual free floating holography? Can we figure out how to redirect or reflect light in an open space? Can we bend the laws of physics slightly and harness a force great enough and manageable enough to be able to refract or “bend” light so that we may position myriads of photons in just the right spot at just the right time? Do we need to? Are the optical illusions getting to a point where the quest for actual holography becomes obsolete?
There still really aren’t any good answers that do not entail dragging stencils through gel or having images refract off of Mylar or mesh. Companies that claim free floating holography aren’t actually creating them. Some work in the field of optical illusions is certainly worth mentioning. Optics for Hire a Massachusetts based company doing interesting work in the field and yet even they don’t ever call their gadgets holograms but a device for creating “holographic” like images. (Respect for that) Even though their approach is admirable, it really doesn’t lend itself to a practical application in a retail environment.
For retail marketing purposes, there really hasn’t been a significant push to get holography from “like-to-have” to “need-to-have”. Sure, we see faux marketing as holography in almost all futuristic entertainment, alluding to a “brighter” future, but serious attempts from neither manufacturers nor marketers to actually get us there, are not evident.
A few achievements need to be made. Brightness that can almost compete with daylight and production cost that makes it realistic for large scale roll out. Anyone who has dabbled with these issues will know that these are not easy achievements by any measure.
I don’t believe that we will see actual wide spread holography in the retail environment in this decade. It is simply not practical. Until someone invents a very cheap way to mass produce the ability to bend light, this capability will most likely come from Skunkworks and entities alike.
What about optical illusions then? The same challenges exist. However, it is a lot easier to invent and mass produce when you are not trying to defy the laws of physics. A Las Vegas based company 360 Brandvision has patented and prototyped a new product specifically targeting the retail environment. 

The CHIC from 360Brandvision
The CHIC™ (Compact Holographic Image Creator) actually achieves what no other gadget currently on the market can deliver. Simplified, low cost and high brightness optical illusions. All though it is claimed holographic without actually being holographic, it produces a very good optical illusion, based on the old Pepper’s Ghost concept. The difference is that the image is very bright and full 1080. This makes it much crisper and much brighter than any of the other solutions on the market. The very simple and sleek design also helps to bring the manufacturing costs to an appetizing level for retail roll out. I would not be surprised to see this in stores everywhere.


  1. Cool stuff. I really look forward to the "need to have day"

  2. Very cool Article Olav!!!!!