Google is getting much (deserved) publicity for its Project Starline, announced at last week’s I/O conference.  Project Starline is a new 3D video chat capability that promises to make your Zoom experience seem even more tedious.  That’s great, but I’m expecting much more from holograms – or even better technologies.  Fortunately, there are several such candidates.

For anyone who has been excited about advances in telehealth, you haven’t seen anything yet.

If you missed Google’s announcement, Project Starline was described thusly:

Imagine looking through a sort of magic window, and through that window, you see another person, life-size and in three dimensions. You can talk naturally, gesture and make eye contact.

Google says: “We believe this is where person-to-person communication technology can and should go,” because: “The effect is the feeling of a person sitting just across from you, like they are right there.” 

Sounds pretty cool.  The thing, though, is that you’re still looking at the images through a screen.  Google can call it a “magic window” if it wants, but there’s still a screen between you and what you’re seeing.

Not so with Optical Trap Displays (OTDs).  These were pioneered by the BYU holography research group three years ago, and, in their latest advance, they’ve created – what else? – floating lightsabers that emit actual beams:

Optical trap displays are not, strictly speaking, holograms.  They use a laser beam to trap a particle in the air and then push it around, leaving a luminated, floating path.  As the researchers describe it, it’s like “a 3D printer for light.”

The authors explain:

The particle moves through every point in the image several times a second, creating an image by persistence of vision.  The higher the resolution and the refresh rate of the system, the more convincing this effect can be made, where the user will not

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