New Slim Display Takes Us A Step Closer To Holograms For Smartphones

We are not quite there yet, but new research brings us closer to portable devices with holographic displays. Immersion Imagery/Shutterstock.com

Holograms are the quintessential futuristic display. Sci-fi loves to use holograms for communication, advertisement, and even as virtual doctors. At their most basic, holograms allow 3D images to be viewed from a wide range of angles without special glasses. However, making holograms is not easy as they often need cumbersome displays.

This might not be the case for long. Researchers report in Nature Communications the development of a new display that allows holograms to be viewed with a slimmer setup, and it might eventually be updated into a portable device. Study author Jungkwuen An and colleagues note the images continue to appear 3D from a range of angles that's 30 times wider than regular screens.

The display is less than 1 centimeter thick and was combined with a single-chip custom processor. It uses a special backlight and light-tilting mechanism to provide the crucial illumination to the images. The team demonstrated this by producing a 4K video of a swimming turtle amidst real objects such as aquatic plants.

The turtle was controlled with a keypad next to the screen to showcase the versatility of the technology and how these holograms can be updated in real-time. The display is 25.6 centimeters (10.1 inches) across and made of 8 million voxels (volume-pixels) that update at 30 frames per second.

Are we ready for holograms on our phones or tablets? Well, not quite yet. The system is much slimmer with the thinner display, but it is still quite thick at a bit less than 10 centimeters (almost 4 inches). 

Over the last decade, researchers have shown it is possible to film holograms using over-the-counter equipment and now this work shows that holographic displays are getting more flexible. We are not at the sci-fi level of ubiquitous holograms yet, but we are inching closer to it.

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