The dream of being able to touch and interact with holograms was the subject of many science fiction stories, but a lab in Japan has actually accomplished the feat.
Unlike the fictional holodeck on Star Trek, which used force fields to create a sense of touch, researchers at Japan’s Digital Nature Group used a different method: femtosecond lasers.
This kind of laser-induced plasma 3D imagery has been demonstrated before to show off aerial plasma 3D graphics, but this is the first time such a mechanism has been created that is not harmful to the human touch.
The safe-to-touch aspect of the image is accomplished by the reducing the duration of laser bursts to higher resolution femtoseconds, instead of lower resolution femtoseconds and nanoseconds.
In the team’s demonstration video, a finger is shown safely touching the holograms made of voxels (points of light emitted by plasma when a laser’s focus ionizes the air). The holograms include a heart, a star and even a tiny fairy. All the images shows are essentially three-dimensional representations of two-dimension images, but it doesn’t take much to imagine how far this could be taken with more sophisticated imagery.
Although the mechanism is far off from being used as a means to create a real holodeck, complete with touchable objects and characters, the research team does envision using the technology for aerial holographic interfaces.
The team’s femtosecond laser-based volumetric displays will be demonstrated to the public as a part of the Siggraph 2015 exhibition in August.
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