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Star Wars video hologram could soon be a reality, say scientists

By John von Radowitz

Moving hologram displays like those featured in Star Wars could soon be available to watch on a laptop.

Scientists have cracked a major technological hurdle to make low-cost, high quality holographic videos a reality.

Until now, the video hologram has generally been confined to science fiction, the most famous example being the projected image of Princess Leia in the first Star Wars film.

Existing systems that project moving holographic images are costly and suffer from severe limitations.

The chief problem lies with devices called spatial light modulators, which direct light to form points in three dimensional space.

With current technology, key elements of display size, viewing angle, frame rate and depth of image are restricted.

But now US engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a new kind of spatial light modulator that overcomes most of these problems.

The research, published in the journal Nature, promises to take the holographic video out of the realms of science fiction and into the real world.

Scientists estimate that a holographic monitor using the technology could be built for less than 500 US dollars (£320), excluding light sources.

The team, led by Dr Michael Bove, wrote in Nature: "We are now exploring displays based on arrays of these devices such as a small PC-driven, holographic video monitor and large-scale displays exceeding half a metre in width driven by dedicated hardware.

"It is now possible... to make holographic video monitors with full-colour, standard video resolution and a 30Hz (hertz) refresh rate."

Unlike a 3D image, a holographic projection allows the viewer to move around and get different perspectives from all angles.

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