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A Holographic Display For The Average Guy

A graduate student at MIT’s Media Lab has designed a system that contains a super-cheap optical chip, which could help bring holographic technology to consumers within the next five years.

What’s the Latest Development?

MIT Media Lab graduate student Daniel Smalley has developed an inexpensive optical chip that, combined with a prototype display, “renders color holographic video at resolutions equal to that of a standard-definition TV.” Besides the low cost of the chip — at $10, it’s a mere 6 percent of the price of previous chips — the true advance is the way the colors are handled. In the past, red, green and blue light had to be handled separately, resulting in lower image resolution. Smalley’s chip handles these lights simultaneously, allowing for both higher resolutions and more efficient processing.

What’s the Big Idea?

One of the big barriers to the spread of holographic technology to consumers has been the price of the components. Media Lab research scientist Michael Bove says that with this new advance, “costs…can now be reduced to about $200 and can plug into a regular PC.” Video cards would still be expensive, but he believes those prices will come down as well, enabling consumers to purchase a display in the next five years or so. Affordable holographic displays could easily be valuable to the gaming and entertainment industries, and could add a new dimension to videoconferencing. Details on the project appear in the current issue of Nature.

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