Holographic TV on the horizon6 June 2011
While the industry casts its eyes toward the day glasses-free auto-stereo displays go mainstream, holographic 3D systems may not be far behind. Consumer electronics manufacturers have been investigating the ground-breaking work being performed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Samsung is a sponsor of the MIT Media Lab where a team is researching holographic capture and display technologies.
“All the large consumer electronics companies are in touch with what we are doing,” confirmed V. Michael Bove, Principal Research Scientist leading MIT’s Object-Based Media Group (pictured). “Our desire is to make holographic TV a step in the path of 3D TV rather than to start another format from scratch. We aim to take advantage of hardware and standards and software that already exists because that’s the quickest way to bring it to market.” The development of cheap, large and fast refresh rate displays is one of the main impediments to the creation of a viable end to end holographic TV system. However, small screen holographic displays could be available for PC and games use by 2015. IBM Labs predicts that holographic phone calls will be a part of our lives in the next five years, while Apple recently patented technology capable of displaying ‘pseudo-holographic images’ by tracking and responding to the viewer’s eye movements.
“The main concern with holographic TV a few years ago was how to transmit the huge amount of information to the home,” explained Bove. “Through the work of MIT, the University of Arizona and others, we can now recreate the hologram at the receiver from views captured by the camera. To do that we require a lot of computing power but the advances that [processor makers] Intel, AMD and Nvidia have made have inadvertently solved this. We can use ordinary GPU chips so that the computation problem is no longer a significant barrier.”
Indeed Bove’s team have used commercially available products to demonstrate the capture and transmission of holographic images. It used a infra-red signal of an Xbox Kinect camera to transmit a video hologram of an MIT employee – dressed, of course, as Princess Leia – and resolved by a computer with three high powered chips at 15fps. He continues: “For a holographic image to display well, the pixels need to be much, much smaller than the smallest pixels in today’s TV screens – close to the size of a wavelength of light [for a 47in display, that typically corresponds to approximately 250,000 times HDTV resolution]. That is one engineering challenge. The other is building displays which are large enough and can refresh at 25fps or faster. We can build large screens, we can build fast displays, but the trick is combining them.”
Bove’s team is researching ways to make a high resolution display costing a few 100 dollars and it is confident of achieving one 1 metre in width capable of showing standard video frame rates in the near future.
As far as a transmission standard is concerned, that is already taken care of in the multiview extension written into H.264. Already earmarked as a way of delivering sixteen or more views to future autostereoscopic displays, the data representation is also suitable for holographic TV, assuming that all the grunt work of rebuilding the hologram is done by the receiver
“Holographic TV is not going to be a distinct brach of TV but part of the continuum from stereo to autostereo/multiview to holographic,” says Bove. “By using H.264 the same transmission can deliver two views to 3DTVs, carry multiple-views for autostereo screens and information for holographic displays.”
“Holography is a significantly more advanced viewer experience that stereo 3D because it has motion parallax, meaning that if I move position I can move around an object. Stereo has a fixed viewpoint of a scene.
Bove will discuss these latest advances at the SMPTE International Conference on Stereoscopic 3D for Media and Entertainment July 13-14, 2010 in New York.