Holographic Displays and Volumetric Video

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Every company is looking for a solution to grab their customers’ attention in an age full of ads and promotions. For some of those companies, the answer is holograms. The technology and its possibilities captured many people’s imagination in both the Star Trek and Star Wars universes, and today, holographic displays are starting to take shape and bring brand experiences to another level of interaction.

Many of us have seen holographic projections at airports and retail stores. They remind us of liquid restrictions and speed up the security lines or greet us and ask if we would like to make a purchase in a retail setting. However, these type of displays are based on a very old technology known as “Pepper’s Ghost” and usually don’t spark people’s interest.

However, more interactive displays together with the newest form of 3D content – volumetric video – go beyond imagination and create unforgettable customer experiences. 

Evolution of holographic displays

Hologram technology is not new and has been around since the 19th century with the invention of Pepper’s Ghost. Later, it moved to holographic pyramids made by manipulating a sheet of plastic into the shape of a pyramid with its top cut off. The display creates a 3D-like illusion for the viewer and appears as if the object is in air. Traditional approaches to viewing holograms require a headset or LCD screen. However, if you approach closer, it is hard to trick your eyes into believing that it is a real hologram. Before long, you can tell that it is simple video projected on a glass, and it loses that “wow” effect, especially if the hologram is a real-size human.  

So a couple of companies, including Voxon Photonics and Hypervsn™, are taking holographic displays one step further. They created technologies in which the holographic object physically exists in space without being projected on the screen. Voxon Photonics’ solutions physically build a model of the scene using millions of points of light, producing fully interactive digital holograms. Hypervsn™ uses spinning blades to create moving 3D holograms in midair.

The display that gives that wow effect is already here, but the 3D content for such interactive experiences comes at a high cost. It requires a team of 3D artists and consumes a lot of time to produce a truly engaging experience. Most importantly, even though you can model a 3D object such as a shoe or a car, it is close to impossible to have realistic 3D humans. The solution to produce such 3D content is volumetric capture.

What is volumetric capture?

Volumetric capture is a rig of cameras that records moving images of people and objects. It records volumetric video that can be viewed from any angle at any moment in time. It gives the closest 3D representation of a real world object possible. Usually, such a capture system uses from 40 to over a 100 sensors and requires an enormous amount of processing power to get the final result. Companies like Microsoft and Intel are renting such studios for more than $100,000 for a couple minutes of recording. Although there is some brilliant holographic display content out there, most of the businesses simply can’t afford it. However, some smaller companies are developing affordable and portable volumetric capture studios. They have released setups that are made of 2-10 off-the-shelf sensors and do not require a large studio or green screens. The quality of the model is lower than what you would get with 100 cameras, but once visual effects are applied, it is as mesmerizing as content coming from large capture studios.

Conclusion

Volumetric displays or holographic displays are the ultimate holographic signage solution for all indoor and outdoor locations, and they are already being tackled by some companies, so the era of simple displays that rely on “Pepper’s Ghost” technology is soon to be over. 

About Author

As part of the development team at EF EVE™, Jonathan Adler is one of the pioneers of volumetric capture solutions. He has been working in the field of volumetric content and VFX for the past six years and has a particular interest in VR and 3D display technology.

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