Attendees at the SIGGRAPH 2015 exhibition in Los Angeles this coming August will have the first opportunity to boldly touch what no man or woman has touched before … a hologram. Can a Star Trek holodeck be coming soon?
SIGGRAPH 2015 is the International Conference and Exhibition on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques and the 42nd edition is where the Digital Nature Group from Japan’s University of Tsukuba will demonstrate for the first time its touchable aerial images or holograms.
The holograms are made using the femtosecond laser – a laser that pulses beams at 10−15 or one quadrillionth of a second – which has practical applications in nuclear fusion, corneal surgery, 3D optical data storage, nanomachining and nanorobotics. Digital Nature Group is already well known for using the femtosecond laser for aerial plasma 3D graphics demonstrations – holograms that could not be felt because, until now, the femtosecond laser was not safe for casual touching.
Digital Nature Group made the femtosecond laser safe by reducing the duration of the laser bursts and then using the energy of the laser to ionize or excite locations in the air until they become plasma and emit light. The laser can ionize 200,000 locations per second, creating illuminated 3D pixels called voxels that van be felt but are not harmful to human fingers. In addition, the hologram will actually react to being touched.
Thus far, Digital Nature Group has only released videos of the tiny 3D laser holograms of hearts and fairies being finger-poked, so SIGGRAPH 2015 attendees will be the first to see a live demonstration.
How far are we from a Star Trek holodeck? Well, the original function of the holodeck was to provide entertainment and diversion for the crew. If the Digital Nature Group booth at the SIGGRAPH 2015 draws crowds waiting hours to touch a tiny star with their finger, we’re either already there or we’re much easier to entertain than starship crews.