Touchable holograms have been developed by Japanese scientists, it has recently been announced.
The ground-breaking discovery has been achieved by experts at the Utsunomiya University Center for Optical Research and Education, and was initially revealed at the SIGGRAPH international conference, which took place in Los Angeles, back in August.
The foundation of the invention is represented by femtosecond lasers, which were adapted by researchers in order to make it possible to perturb and influence holograms by the touch of one’s hand.
This technique is normally employed by ophthalmologists, when conducting corrective eye surgery known as LASIK, which alters the shape of the eye’s cornea, so as to boost visual acuity.
When the power of lasers is doubled by that provided by camera devices and mirrors, it is possible to create three-dimensional images, of spectacular clarity and definition.
This is achieved thanks to pulses which are emitted at incredibly high rates: between 1,000 and 200,000 such flashes of light called voxels can be sent by lasers in just one second, and their duration is of just one millionth of a nanosecond.
What is even more astounding is that the holograms are actually capable of reacting to human touch, thus making virtual reality more vivid and lifelike than ever before. Moreover, the technique doesn’t pose any health risks to humans, in contrast with prior inventions of this kind which resulted in burns.
As study author Dr. Yoichi Ochiai from Tsukuba University explains, the discovery has a multitude of potential applications, in a wide variety of fields, which aren’t limited solely to the entertainment business.
In fact, such an invention could also help revolutionize the construction industry, by allowing structural engineers to design buildings that can withstand external pressures.
In addition, it could also promote medical breakthroughs, by allowing doctors to study vital functions with greater accuracy, and to practice complex surgical procedures without requiring a subject in the flesh.
For the average media consumer, the newly developed “fairy lights” technology could offer a much more immersive experience, by making imaginary settings tangible.
Current technologies which give viewers the sensation of being at the scene of the events as they unfold don’t offer the possibility of actually distorting the images or interacting with them in any way.
3-D images, movies or games appear authentic due to minute details, and stereoscopic methods which create or heighten the illusion of depth. However, up until now, it has been impossible to actually feel textures or surfaces, or to touch digitally created objects or individuals, so as to really bring virtual reality closer, by making it palpable.
This new technology however takes this emerging field one step closer to its ultimate goal of transforming computer-simulated environments so that they appear so genuine that they could be mistaken for the real world.
For instance, it might one day be possible to hold video chats with people located even thousands of miles away and feel as if you were touching them, thus making long-distance relationships much less distressing and more physically intimate than before.
Also, this technology might also pave the way for virtual gadgets such as keyboards which could actually be used by their owners, just like real objects, rendering the material world less and less essential.
Image Source: PSFK