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Communications Graphics Star Wars Prequels Technology

One Step Closer to Star Wars Holograms 122

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the help-me-obi-wan dept.
An anonymous reader noted a USC research project that is coming ever closer to bringing the classic Star Wars communication holograms from Tatooine to Earth. There's nifty video and some high resolution pictures of Tie Fighters projected into 3-D. Still no clear way to project it from an astro mech droid, but I'm sure that's coming.

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One Step Closer to Star Wars Holograms

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  • Wow. Just... WOW! (Score:3, Informative)

    by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:01AM (#32678100) Homepage Journal

    TFA is amazing. It doesn't go into great detail into how the thing works, but it gives an ok general outline, and the video is cool as hell (glad they imbedded it here).

    I can't wait until these replace standard monitors and TV sets. The only drawback is saying goodbye to flat TVs, but that's a small price to pay.

    I WANT ONE!!!

    • Granted it looks cool, and I too want one :D

      Of the top of my heads, here are some problems

      The energy needed to power it might be rather big (20Hz spinning of a 40 inch mirror?)

      Things aren't filmed in 360 degree, so some angles will probably be useless for most videos.

      Who wants to sit BEHIND the action? People will only use one side as they always have.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Spinning mirror 3d is fun, but not practical in any way.

        That said, if someone did develop holographic movies, there would no ling be a 'behind the action' place to sit. It will be filmed so that everywhere has some action.

        Hell, maybe people can put there own person viewing angle anywhere they want.

      • The energy needed to power it might be rather big (20Hz spinning of a 40 inch mirror?)

        Once the mirror is spinning at speed, the only energy input required would be to fight friction and wind resistance. I haven't done any calculations, but I don't think would require that much energy to keep spinning the mirror. I think the hardest thing would be to make a large mirror that won't break under centrifugal force.

        • by MadnessASAP (1052274) <madnessasap@gmail.com> on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:47AM (#32678738)

          Since you clearly want that thing in an enclosed box (I prefer my TVs to be of the less then lethal variety) It would seem to make sense to make that box a vacuum or at least low pressure, they were making some pretty massive CRTs right at the end of that tech so I imagine that this wouldn't be a problem. Ultimately thought I think that this just isn't practical and probably never will be, it doesn't scale very well, 60 fps would likely shatter the mirror, in most applications nobody would actually care to sit at the back and frankly it's a big spinning mirror in the middle of your office or living room.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            they were making some pretty massive CRTs right at the end of that tech

            My forty two inch flat screen Trinitron (CRT) weighs 215 pounds. One of its advantages is it's damned hard for a burglar to walk off with.

          • I think that this just isn't practical and probably never will be, it doesn't scale very well, 60 fps would likely shatter the mirror, in most applications nobody would actually care to sit at the back and frankly it's a big spinning mirror in the middle of your office or living room.

            you are right when it comes to the living room, but you could make a mylar mirror that could spin a lot faster if needed and it would still be great as a demo device for shows and conferences, I could also see it being used for meeting tech demos and engineers and medical professionals, it does have it's uses.

      • by Bazards (1081167)
        I don't think I would want 40" of glass spinning at 20Hz in my living room. Shrapnel.
        • by drakaan (688386)

          ...makes me wonder if it would work somehow with splitting mirrors to slice up the projected beam and a large number of smaller mirrors (something like a holographic DLP system). Hmm...what would the mirror array need to be shaped like?

          Maybe a holographic refraction system with the projector in the middle of a cylindrical array of refractors?

          They'll figure out a way to commercialize this sometime in the next 10 years, I'm sure.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          But you can put it in a solid glass cylinder and spin it, you get more mass to spin but next to no air resistance and shattering would not be very likely

        • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:46PM (#32679660)

          Actually, some of the first color TV designs used spinning mirrors: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Color_TV [wikipedia.org]

          I don't think I would want 40" of glass spinning at 20Hz in my living room. Shrapnel.

          That's what a bunch of engineers at RCA thought, when they pushed for an all-electronics solution, without mechanical stuff.

          So call me when this thing works without high speed movable parts.

          Oh, and disclaimer, my father worked for RCA, and told me a lot of funny stories about the birth of color TV. During one of the first tests, transmitting a color picture of a fruit bowl from RCA's research site in Princeton to New York city, one of the engineers painted the banana blue. The folks at the receiving side fiddled with their color adjustments, and announced: "Well, the banana looks ok, but all the colors on the other fruit are wrong."

          Of course, they had tried to adjust on the banana first. Even back then, nerdy geeks did nerdy pranks!

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by mcgrew (92797) *

            So call me when this thing works without high speed movable parts.

            That's probably what a lot of people said when power tools were invented. I've read about the attempts at different technologies to produce color televisions, including the mirror one. I think the problem with the mirror then would have been the huge size of the box; early CRTs (even in the '50s) were a lot deeper than later CRTs, and you would have had to have the CRT and the spinning mirror.

            It seems to me that you could have a true holograp

          • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            I don't think I would want 40" of glass spinning at 20Hz in my living room. Shrapnel.

            That's what a bunch of engineers at RCA thought, when they pushed for an all-electronics solution, without mechanical stuff.

            shhhh you use something every day that does 2000-9000hz per second... your car engine (we just call it RPM there). Or even 20-200hz a fan on your computer or in your house to cool things off.

            Also making something reflective does not have to be a glass mirror. Mylar plastic, polished metal, even the

            • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

              by ManlySpork (1542827)
              Hz= /second RPM = /minute Just a small correction.
            • by Urkki (668283)

              So you can get the effect to work for 1 person it does not work with 2 or more.

              Actually I think it would work just fine for as many persons as you want, as long as they are in different directions, ie. one is not looking over other ones head. Just do some eye tracking with a bunch of webcams to get the eye levels of all wathcers.

              In Soviet Russia, the 3D TV watches you.

            • by tofubeer (1746800)
              2000-9000hz per second - 2000-9000 cycles per second per second.... (hz is cycles per second already)
            • My tachometer tells me I usually don't go above 50 Hz with my car engine. Of course, I have to do my own translation from 3000 RPM. (Hint: 1 minute == 60 seconds)

              Of course, that's inside a block, and the stuff's made of steel, which is tough, and it isn't a meter across.

              Figuring that it's a 1m piece of glass spinning around its center, that's 50cm * pi, or something like 1.5m around. At 20 Hz, that's 30 m/s should a fragment break off the end. That's nowhere near bullet speed, but it's plenty fast

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by jlf278 (1022347)
        "Who wants to sit BEHIND the action? People will only use one side as they always have."

        which side is BEHIND the action when you are watching football in a stadium? There are certainly some good applications for this technology. Though just having a feature to watch replays at whatever angle you want would be a great addition to plain old flat panel tv.

        • by mldi (1598123)

          "Who wants to sit BEHIND the action? People will only use one side as they always have."

          which side is BEHIND the action when you are watching football in a stadium? There are certainly some good applications for this technology. Though just having a feature to watch replays at whatever angle you want would be a great addition to plain old flat panel tv.

          One word: cheerleaders.

        • by cynyr (703126)
          you have the wrong idea, for behind the action, how about behind Jessica Alba, Drew Berrymore, or Rose McGowan during an "action" scene
    • by Kepesk (1093871)
      Yeah, this is pretty cool, but when are we going to get to the Star TREK holograms? Now that would really be something.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by purpledinoz (573045)
        I'm counting on the porn industry to invent that.
        • by amiga3D (567632)
          really you're absolutely correct. That's where the most demand will be. Better watch out for those 3D facial scenes. Imagine how ppl will be ducking away from the flying jizm coming at them in 3D.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Tacvek (948259)

      So this is a volumetric style display. It can only display objects within its volume. However full volumetric displays this display has only natural horizontal parallax. It can fake vertical parallax using head tracking. It does have one conceptual advantage over proper volumetric displays, namely that it does not require that you can always see through to the back of he shape, but it should be able to emulate that if desired.

      - - - -

      Let me attempt to create a classification system for 3D display technology.

    • FWIW: I only had time to quickly skim a bit of the article but it seems similar to a system I saw at a Siggraph conference about 25 years or so ago which iirc used a speaker covered with reflective Mylar to bounce a laser in the right direction to produce a 3D display. The speaker was used to modulate the surface of the Mylar film. There may also have been a spinning mirror involved to direct the beam to particular parts of the mylar - it's been too long to remember and I don't have my proceedings handy and
    • This article is so old. Like, ancient. I remember the same mirror thing from over a year ago.
  • Old news... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:04AM (#32678152)

    The display was shown at the SIGGRAPH 2007 Emerging Technologies exhibition in August 2007 in San Diego, California, where it won the award for "Best Emerging Technology".

    Way to keep up, Slashdot.

    Actually if I felt like searching I'm sure I could find this same story posted years ago.

    • Re:Old news... (Score:5, Informative)

      by BobMcD (601576) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:51AM (#32678790)

      The display was shown at the SIGGRAPH 2007 Emerging Technologies exhibition in August 2007 in San Diego, California, where it won the award for "Best Emerging Technology".

      Way to keep up, Slashdot.

      Actually if I felt like searching I'm sure I could find this same story posted years ago.

      I think this tells us something about the internet as an informational medium. Old news, but how many of us heard of it for the first time today? I know I never saw the 2008 posting, nor would I have frequented whatever site that link is from. Makes you wonder how many things, neat or otherwise, are simply lost to a digital wasteland.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by bill_mcgonigle (4333) *

        I think this tells us something about the internet as an informational medium. Old news, but how many of us heard of it for the first time today? I know I never saw the 2008 posting, nor would I have frequented whatever site that link is from. Makes you wonder how many things, neat or otherwise, are simply lost to a digital wasteland.

        Hey, now, around here you're supposed to get viscerally angry when a non-optimal event occurs. Check that introspective, mellow attitude at the door, mister!

    • by EkriirkE (1075937)
      This was on ./, I remember reading about this years ago. This method had been used as far back as the 50's if I remember... *yawn*
    • Yes, it's been done before. This is an incremental but important improvement.

      I developed the drivers and application software for the US Navy's 3D Volumetric Display, at Naval Ocean Systems Center in San Diego around 1992. The system used acousto-optical devices (bragg cells [wikipedia.org]) to steer a laser's beam at a two-bladed 13 inch diameter helix that rotated at 600 rpm, giving a 20Hz refresh rate. The display was limited to about 4400 voxels per image because of the time the cells required to stop vibrating a
  • Nothing new (Score:5, Informative)

    by OzPeter (195038) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:13AM (#32678284)
    The ol' spinning mirror used to fake a real 3d display trick
    • I don't see how a spinning mirror is really "faking" it though. Don't get me wrong, it is old, but essentially all a display has to do is look the park, right? Why would a spinning mirror not be a real 3d display?

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by camperdave (969942)
        Well, because there is only horizontal parallax, and not vertical parallax for one thing. If you had an image of a pair of dice behind a playing card you could move left or right to look behind the card to see the dice, but you could not move up to look over the card to see the dice.
        • by BronsCon (927697)

          They demonstrate vertical parallax in the video.

          • by LanMan04 (790429)

            It's just tracking with the camera. You'll notice that the image stays the same (you don't get to see the "top" of the TIE fighter) when they go up and down with the camera.

            • by BronsCon (927697)

              The head image........ yes, you do.

              • The way the system works is by projecting a series of 2D image onto a rotating mirror. When the mirror is at position 0, they display image 0, which is what a viewer from angle 0 would see. They then shift the mirror by 1.25 degrees to position 1, and display image 1, which is what a viewer from angle 1 would see. They proceed in this fashion, displaying 288 2D images each to one of 288 different angles. Because your eyes are horizontally separated, you see the mirror from two different angles. Your ri
        • by xonar (1069832)

          Well, because there is only horizontal parallax, and not vertical parallax for one thing. If you had an image of a pair of dice behind a playing card you could move left or right to look behind the card to see the dice, but you could not move up to look over the card to see the dice.

          "but you could not move up to look over the card to see the dice." It seemed to work just fine in the video.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by camperdave (969942)
            It seemed to work just fine in the video.

            "Seemed" is the operative word there. What they do is track the viewer's height and rotate the image along a horizontal axis to simulate vertical parallax. If you have two viewers, say a boy and his father, standing side by side, this system will display the proper image to both just fine. It projects one image to the boy, then at a later time in the scan cycle, it projects a different image to the father. However, if the boy is standing in front of his father,
    • The ol' spinning mirror used to fake a real 3d display trick. Yes, Max [wikimedia.org], the old spinning mirror used to fake a real 3d display trick. We're thinking of having one installed in your other shoe.
    • The spinning mirror combined with the assymetric diffuser gives each viewpoint in the horizontal plane a different image just like a real 3d object would. The place where I get lost is they claim they also have a way to make the vertical viewpoints 3d correct. I don't see how.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Glad to see it's on the fast track to the marketplace with the whole second ./ posting in three years....

  • With mirrors! Seriously, I saw a "tank" 3D system back in the late 80's/early 90's hooked up to an E&S display system.

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      by OnlyJedi (709288)

      I still remember being a kid in the early 90's, and playing games like Time Traveler [wikipedia.org] and Holosseum [wikipedia.org] in arcades. Apparently they were very successful financially, though they didn't last too long.

      • by Vegeta99 (219501)

        I remember Time Traveler!

        Well, I remember the damn thing always being broken when I could talk my parents into taking me to the arcade... Just read those Wiki articles, and it turns out I wasn't the only one: Holosseum was a conversion for the cabinet cuz their LD players sucked :P

      • by Glsai (840331)
        Thanks for posting those. I remember that game from when I was a kid, and I could never remember what game it was. I always thought of it when I thought of holograms.
  • But it is way too clear and doesn't flicker at all!

  • are not the droids we're looking for?
  • Dup! (Score:4, Informative)

    by spribyl (175893) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:19AM (#32678400)

    Possibly of a dup from a couple of years ago. I would verify can't be bothered searching or getting to the site.

  • The video notably has no audio track, which keeps you from hearing the WHIRRRRRRR being pumped out by the spinning mirror. Compare this demo to, say, this demo [youtube.com] of a motorized laser system.

    .
  • Light goes until it stops and hits something. Those free-floating projections from the movies are, based on current knowledge, impossible. And so are fucking lightsabers.

    • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZeqIZyUMDP4 [youtube.com]

      IR lasers focused in a cone by spinning mirrors cause localized ionization of air at a given point. This point emits light. It works. It just isn't practical (what with being blindingly dangerous without IR safety glasses) yet.
    • by N1tr0u5 (819066)
      Presumably once we figure out one, then we'll figure out the other, eh?
    • by mcgrew (92797) *

      Those free-floating projections from the movies are, based on current knowledge, impossible.

      Key here is "based on current knowledge." A hundred years ago a netbook was impossible, based on knowledge at the time. Now days true holograms require a screen with diffraction patterns and a laser, but the photons could hypothetically bounce off of other photons, or phase with them to brighten/kill them if we could aim the photons precisely enough. R2D2's head could have an array of lasers around its head pointing

    • by blincoln (592401)

      Those free-floating projections from the movies are, based on current knowledge, impossible.

      No, they're not. The MIT Media lab was building them about a decade ago [mit.edu].

  • It uses a high speed spinning mirror and requires head tracking, not very practical imo. Second, this is already quite old, the first time i saw this exact setup was at least a few years ago.
  • by tibit (1762298) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @11:41AM (#32678654)

    They have done some cool things to achieve the effect. Key problems to overcome were:

    1. The mirror isn't. A regular rotating mirror would allow viewing from a narrow range of heights. The mirror they use is diffuse in the vertical direction, while acting like a regular mirror in horizontal direction.

    2. How to get a fscking fast projector: they use a regular DVI stream, but encode multiple one-bit images into the components. That way a 16-bit-per-pixel stream gets you 16 binary frames per each DVI frame. With 200Hz refresh rate, that is 3200 monochrome frames per second. To decode the stream, they use a custom FPGA-based decoder between the DVI input and the DLP chip.

    3. How to render the source material so that it looks good -- and do it in real time, too. They overcome various sources of distortion,

    All in all, methinks this is worthy of re-publishing, even if it's stale. Very cool technology.

  • Who here clicked on the link and then imagined their sweating web admin saying "It's a trap!"

    No one ever expects the slashdot site ignition...

  • "One step closer to Star Wars holograms" ... pshaw.

    Where are the vertical distortion lines?! (sigh) ... OK, here is how you can make up for the utter fail:

    1. ADD the vertical distortion lines
    2. As the surface begins to spin up, add a stall complete with Millennium Falcon stall sounds, then, when it reaches full speed add a Wookie roar.
    3. Send me one ... for free (holds breath)

  • When do we get 3D, POV, interactive porn?
  • Not NEWs (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @12:02PM (#32678974) Journal

    I saw this two or three years ago on the Discovery Channel.

  • Check the credits...not quite what I was hoping but the illusion is still pretty cool.
  • was very cool, but I was really hoping to see the 3d image force-choke the guy holding the controls.
  • Holograms are not projected.

    • by Urkki (668283)

      Holograms are not projected.

      Well, depends on the definition... Technically speaking, hologram is projected to the retina of the eyes. You need the light source, which is reflected or filtered by the image creating material, goes through a lens system so that it is in focus when it hits the surface it's being projected to. If lens is in human eye and surface is retina, it still sounds like projection to me.

      Also, I'm not sure if Star Wars 3D projection technology has been explained in imaginary technical detail, but if not, then it coul

      • "Well, depends on the definition"

        I'm using the actual definition.

        "Technically speaking, hologram is projected to the retina of the eyes."

        Only if you believe everything you see is projected to the retina of the eyes. Holograms recreate the wavefront originally reflected off of the actual objects that appear in the hologram. This is the virtual image.

        There is also a real image that allows you to create a 2D photograph without using lenses.

        As for the Star Wars 3D projection technology is concerned, there's rea

        • by Urkki (668283)

          "Well, depends on the definition"

          I'm using the actual definition.

          "Technically speaking, hologram is projected to the retina of the eyes."

          Only if you believe everything you see is projected to the retina of the eyes.

          Well, the image on retina is a projection, isn't it, and with holograms there's also the lamp (not just any ambient light) and the hologram itself containing the image of an object (as opposed to just being the object), a complete projector system when combined with the lens of the eye.

          Holograms recreate the wavefront originally reflected off of the actual objects that appear in the hologram. This is the virtual image.

          There is also a real image that allows you to create a 2D photograph without using lenses.

          As for the Star Wars 3D projection technology is concerned, there's really no reason to call it a hologram. 3D virtual sculptures would be a more appropriate name.

          Well, unless it is a hologram, ie. the original wavefront is recreated, when light reflects from the projection. A holographic projector would project a hologram as the name implies. I mean, nothing prevents us from projectin

  • They don't spin one of those DLP chips instead. Presumably all that would be necessary would be to Illuminate it then.
  • While the big spinning mirror thing in a box is really cool, it suffers from the same problem all holograms do, especially when comparing it to the R2-D2 style of hologram. That is, it's entirely contained within a projection medium. The neat trick would be getting a 3D projection onto an unoccupied space. From what I've read on the subject, this isn't really possible (unless there is sufficient particulate matter in the air to provide something to project onto). I suppose it might be possible to use cr

    • by Greyfox (87712)
      Io2 [io2technology.com] has been going on about their thing for years. I think they're just a projector and a sheet of ionized air or water vapor or something. It's still kind of nifty but they don't seem to have made much progress with them recently.
  • by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Thursday June 24, 2010 @04:41PM (#32683260)
    I've always found the Star Wars holograms bizarrely low-quality. You'd think a galactic civilization with hyperspatial travel could build a better communication system than their blotchy, wavery, interference-prone monochromatic holograms. Perhaps they could invent 2D LCD television instead. They'd be lightyears ahead in image quality.
    • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      i've always been of the opinion that the coolest part of the holographic communication technology in the movies wasn't the hologram at all, it was the instantaneous 2 way communication between star systems! Compared to that, an eye candy holograph is nothing.

  • You know... this is the next excuse the Iranians are going to give for having their centrifuges....

  • It's a Swept Surface Volumetric Display [wikipedia.org] A friend and I actually built one in my shed. We removed the colour wheel from a DLP projector and replaced the bulb with a green laser. We projected from below onto a translucent spinning helix, which gave a better volumetric image than the flat surface used by these guys. We then animated a helical slice of a scene and interlaced the frames so that the red, green, blue, cyan, magenta and yellow projected sequential slices of the helix. It worked quite well, alt

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