Touchable Holograms Are Here!

holodeck

img by Galleria Szczepanski

Were you as big a fan of Star Trek as I was? Although I saw the original series in reruns and out of order, I did see all of TOS, all of Voyager, much of DS9, and some of Enterprise. I also saw every single movie. The tech was cool, the casts outstanding, and the stories often thought provoking.

Researchers at Tokyo University have made a groundbreaking advance in technology in coming up with the ability to touch Holograms. Previously, Holograms have merely been a visual object created by two beams, untouchable by the human hand. However now, these researchers have the ability to add a touch sensation to the holographic images, giving the public, eventually, the ability to feel like they’re really touching the holograms. The movement forward is currently focusing on smaller objects but the thought is that there’s no reason why the technology can’t progress to the likes of books and light switches, signalling when a hand ‘touches’ the hologram and reacting accordingly. Through the use of Airborne Ultrasound Tactile Display, the University seems to be ahead of the competitors and have been market leaders since 2001 when they announced their work on Feelex, a combination of controlled rods that reshape automatically behind a flexible screen to aid screen graphics.

Particularly groundbreaking could be the use of the technology in hospitals, claims a professor at Tokyo University, Hiroyuki Shinoda, stating that it could reduce contamination by eradicating the need for multiple people from handling equipment and objects in and around the hospital. The technology could create a virtual switch to operate some of the equipment instead of the human hand from spreading any contamination. The great thing about touchable holograms is that they do not need to be permanently in situ, being able to be turned on and off as and when needed, completely reducing the need for space to be taken up by more equipment.

The burning question is whether such technology will take off. The Japanese researchers have used simple devices such as Nintendo Wii remotes to get them to the stage that they’re currently at, however not much is currently known as to the level of their funding. Their recent news releases could and should push funding their way, allowing them to take their technology to further boundaries with the potential for release to the public.

The Tokyo researchers aren’t the first to make this discovery with larger companies such as Microsoft developing similar products. For example, Microsoft are publicly working on a device called Vermeer which projects a 3D object with the use of their Kinect controllers to detect hand motions to control the object. The hand motion and control part of this technological breakthrough is very key in the development – it’s all well and good developing the 3D technology, but without the image or object from being interactable with the human hand, it’s a moot advance. Displair have taken the technology slightly further and added in the creation of cold fog for their images to be projected on, again using a system very similar to Microsoft’s Kinect in order to detect any human hand or body movements, however neither competitors seem to be at the level of the University of Tokyo and their sustained research and development.

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One Response

  1. Tony H Leather

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