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The Princess Leia project: 'volumetric' 3D images that float in 'thin air'

February 3, 2018 | Telepresence Options

Princess_Leia_project.jpg

Story and images by Kurzweilai

Making the 3D displays of science fiction real

Inspired by the iconic Stars Wars scene with Princess Leia in distress, Brigham Young University engineers and physicists have created the "Princess Leia project" -- a new technology for creating 3D "volumetric images" that float in the air and that you can walk all around and see from almost any angle.

"Our group has a mission to take the 3D displays of science fiction and make them real," said electrical and computer engineering professor and holography expert Daniel Smalley, lead author of a Jan. 25 Nature paper on the discovery.

The image of Princess Leia portrayed in the movie is actually not a hologram, he explains. A holographic display scatters light only on a 2D surface. So you have to be looking at a limited range of angles to see the image, which is also normally static. Instead, a moving volumetric display can be seen from any angle and you can even reach your hand into it. Examples include the 3D displays Tony Stark interacts with in Ironman and the massive image-projecting table in Avatar.

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