Holographic Technology: Why It Hasn’t Become a Reality in Our Living Rooms Yet

From intricate projectable battle maps in Star Wars, holographic chess, Tupac coming back to life on stage, and a giant Kate Moss hologram at the V&A in London, holography is always a fascinating subject.

Seeing a 3D image with more depth and visual clarity appear out of nothing is something of a mind-bender, even with the highest definition of monitors and TVs already making their way into our homes.

From the cinema to the grandest of art shows and exhibitions, holography has been the subject of much interest and speculation in the last three decades. People have fantasized about having such tech near them in mass standard, and scientists have worked overtime to achieve this objective. So, why haven’t we made a breakthrough with holographic technology created for mass consumption? That is, something you could walk into a regular electronic shop and buy?

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First, What Is a Holograph?

A hologram is any photogenic technique that records the light scattered from an object and presents it in a way that appears three-dimensional. These created images should be viewed without the need for any special glasses. Therefore, not all objects classified as holograms are, in fact, such.

The Tupac hologram at Coachella 2012 was a 2D image projected through an angled and transparent piece of glass by a stage projector, thus appearing as a hologram. So was the Kate Moss hologram at the Alexander McQueen show in London. In reality, most people have not interacted with the technology beyond the embossed holograms on their credit and debit cards.

Something closer to the definition of a hologram is Samsung’s patented holographic display which aims to transmit white light through an array of lenses and reproduce a 3D image without the user needing to look at the display.

Types of Holograms

Holograms can be categorized as reflection, transmission, hybrid types, and embossed holograms. Embossed holograms are the easiest to produce since they don’t require screens or a transmission medium.

The two former types of holograms are dependent on laser light being split into an incident and object beam. These beams are reflected by a system of angled mirrors onto a holographic plate.

Hybrid holograms combine the properties of both reflection and transmission holograms. They are unique in that no real object is required since the properties of the object are digitally calculated and transmitted.

Other holography techniques include passing laser light through particles suspended in a medium such as air and holographic nets, which involve curtain LED lights that are transparent and can be programmed to produce digital 3D images.

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Why Don’t We Have Holographic Imaging In Our Homes Yet?

Cost is the main reason why we don’t yet have real holographic technology produced in mass. While true holography already exists in practice, it is still too expensive to create a system that is small enough for domestic use.

For typical reflection or transmission holography that creates intricate depth and reality, a host of cameras, lenses, holographic screens, mirrors, and other sophisticated equipment are required.

Hybrid holography is the closest that we could get to a home-based system, but the massive computing power and digital transmission speeds required still make this far from a mass-scale likelihood. 5G would solve that problem in part because of its ability to transmit huge swathes of data at a fraction of the time required by 4G LTE.

What Does The Future Hold For Holography?

The pace of scientific development in the field of holography cannot be compared to other contemporaries such as quantum computing or machine learning. However, scientists, researchers, and enthusiasts are giving their best efforts to understand this complicated subject better and make the production processes more efficient.

There is no doubt about the commercial importance of holographic technology. From strategies by the military to study topography and targets, holographic medical imaging with implications for surgery and sensitive procedures, to holographic data storage, the potential of this tech is massive. With the rate of innovation far surpassing current production capabilities, it may yet be too soon to hope for a holographic experience in your living room.