The daily grind of looking for technology breakthroughs to report on must become struggling. Take for instance this report on a 360 Holographic Video Display I’ve seen now on Science Alert (This Star Wars-like 360-degree video can be seen from different angles) and CNet (Help Me Obi: Is this the first true 3D video?)
I found the effect that the inventors have created pretty cool and interesting. Though I was wondering to what extent that was a 3D image, as I found myself asking some questions:
1. Why is it in a darkened room?
2. How did they film that baby from multiple angles at once?
The second question was easy to answer: they didn’t. All the images being displayed in this demonstration are anchored in 2D.
The first question can be answered by looking carefully at the ‘medium’ that the images is being projected onto/into. It’s blurred. It’s dark. It appears to be transparent.
A comment on the CNet page pointed me in the right direction. I think it’s a piece of angled glass spinning at high speed. A projector is underneath pointing up, and the image you see is a reflection off the glass. Now it makes sense that it is a 360 degree projection: no matter where you stand in the room, you can see the displayed image. It also makes sense that the installation is in a darkened room. Too much light will wash out the image.
Like I said, the effect is cool. But I have reservations on how it’s reported, which brings me back to the Science Alert and CNet articles. Take this line from Science Alert:
“And besides looking amazingly cool, the 360-degree video object could have many industrial applications, including 3D drawings, computer assisted design, and mesh models” (Science Alert)
Yes, it does look very cool. But there are no industrial applications here yet. Even if you had a 3D CAD drawing, everyone in the room will still be seeing the exact same 2D image. Not a 3D image from different angles.
It got me thinking. You could get true 3D if, as the mirror rotates, the system projects a different image for each viewing angle. If you get the timing right, the viewing lines from different parts of the room will see different sides of the object. This would need quite a lot of processor power to render all the images on-the-fly. Or, have many pre-rendered images ready to project. The potential is there for true holographic 3D, but this prototype is not it.
In reporting a “new technology” I would encourage writers to think deeper about how stuff works. It will give the “future uses of this technology” part of their report more accurate expectations.