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August 14, 2014

Mobile Devices' Next Big Leap May Include 'Star Wars'-Style Holography


With the rise of the Oculus Rift, and with it the potential for home-based virtual reality that blows just about anything else clean out of the water, it's easy to forget that the original goal of the video game market was always the Holodeck. That glorious “Star Trek” innovation that had the potential to put players in a world so real it could be felt, smelled and even tasted was hard to resist. But another major science fiction franchise may offer our first look at holography, specifically, “Star Wars”, in the context of mobile devices with holographic interfaces.

There's no doubt that “Star Wars”, along with “Star Trek”, have been major influences on art and technology since initial releases. But while some of the technology seemed potentially simple to replicate—even the 3D printer can be traced back to the replicator to some degree, and the mobile device itself appears to have a few links in common with both universes' communicators—some of it proved much harder. We're not cruising around in outer space just yet, and we certainly can't tell a slot in the wall to produce a tasty Chicken Marsala with rice. However, work appears to be well underway in terms of getting holography into mobile devices.

Some devices, like the Beagle Holo system, offer a small but impressive look at a hologram viewed in 360 degrees which can be manipulated or interacted with by hand gestures, much like the holographic Death Star was in the original “Star Wars” trilogy. But Beagle won't be alone in the field for long; 2015 marks plans for the Leia Display System to emerge, projecting 360 degree viewable holograms onto thin sheets of water vapor. The idea is somewhat similar to a Disney attraction in which “Pirates of the Caribbean” villain Davy Jones is projected onto a mist curtain. This technology has already been adapted to mobile devices, and is expected to be part of a mobile phone outright by 2015.  Meanwhile, HP Labs is reportedly working on its own such model, dubbed “Project Leia”. Using an LED backlight system and a combination of 64 different cameras, the end result is a hologram with a wide viewing angle. Beyond that, we may see combinations of speakers working with levitating particles—a process known as 3D Acoustic Manipulation, reportedly—and even, yes, our own holodeck systems.

This represents a significant possibility ahead for mobile devices, and the kind of thing that might well generate a whole new “iPhone moment”, so to speak; when the iPhone came out, it represented something largely new, seldom seen. Sure, there were cell phones, but this was the first time a phone could do what the iPhone was doing. So too might a holographic phone have a similar result for us. Of course, it might be largely scoffed, dismissed as a gimmick, but a holographic display could be the start of something much bigger, indeed, giving us the holographic wonderlands we’ve longed for since first seeing Data attempting to whistle by the stream.

Indeed, this could be big. Or it could be easily brushed aside. It could also be just a beginning. But regardless of how it turns out—and there are certainly plenty of possibilities on this front-- only time in the end will show just how it all ends up.




Edited by Adam Brandt


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