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Thanks for the memories  July 26, 2012

Holographic 3D for mobile to become a reality

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Michelle Starr is the tiger force at the core of all things. She also writes about cool stuff and apps as CNET Australia's Crave editor. But mostly the tiger force thing.

(Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET Australia)

Scientists at the Hewlett-Packard (HP) Laboratories claim to have created a new type of multi-directional, back-lit screen that is capable of holographic 3D.

Our current 3D display technology has a lot of limitations. Either you need to view it wearing special glasses, which can be costly or ill-fitting; or, with glasses-free 3D, the viewing angle can be small, meaning that if you move slightly too far to either side, the 3D image disappears.

Now, however, a team of scientists, led by David Fattal at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories in Palo Alto, California, claim to have created a new kind of 3D display for small screens that is both glasses-free and has a very wide viewing angle.

"None of the leading multi-view 3D solutions is particularly well suited to mobile devices (watches, mobile phones or tablets), which require the combination of a thin, portable form factor, a high spatial resolution and a wide full-parallax view zone (for short viewing distance from potentially steep angles)," says the research abstract. "Here we introduce a multi-directional, diffractive backlight technology that permits the rendering of high-resolution, full-parallax 3D images in a very wide view zone (up to 180 degrees in principle) at an observation distance of up to a metre."

The new display uses something called "diffractive optics" to create the holographic 3D effect. Tiny grooves are etched into the rear surface of the glass (what Fattal calls "directional pixels") that refract the light from the LCD in multiple directions. Each pixel has three grooves — for red, green and blue light &mdash and these individual pixels send a different image to each eye, creating the 3D effect.

The current prototype technology can handle video up to 30fps with a resolution of 88ppi, or static images up to 127ppi — so it's a little while off hitting the commercial market. Nevertheless, what we've seen of the display in HP's demonstration videos is impressive.

You can view the entire paper, titled "A multi-directional backlight for a wide-angle, glasses-free, three-dimensional display", on Nature (paywall).

See the technology in action in the video below.


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