Demo: Holographic TV

Harold Garner of the University of Texas Southwestern demonstrates his holographic projector for 3-D video displays.

More than a quarter of a century ago, George Lucas teased movie audiences with a holographic message from a princess in distress. Today, tucked away in a second-floor warren of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School at Dallas, physicist Harold Garner and a team of engineers are building the technology that may finally bring moving 3-D images into the living room. Asked whether his HoloTV project will make images like Princess Leia’s plea for help possible, he laughs and says, “We already know what our very first real movie is going to be”: a re-creation of Leia’s appeal. Garner hopes this planned video will be “the first holographic talkie.” His lab is an engineer’s haven-and a bit out of place in a medical school. But technologies created by his team are crucial to modern biomedical research and will be to future medical practice. While holographic television may seem far afield even of that mission, medical imaging, such as sonography, is near the top of a seemingly infinite list of applications for dynamic holograms. “Heads-up” displays for pilots and soldiers, 3-D video games, and air traffic control screens are a few of the other near-term uses Garner sees. And while holographic TV may take another decade of development, Garner had no doubts its day would come as he showed TR contributing editor Erika Jonietz how the system works.

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From the latest smartphones to advances in quantum computing, the hardware behind today's digital age is rapidly changing.

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