A better image all round

A Hungarian holographic company has teamed up with BAE Systems to develop a new generation of 3D display technologies giving an unprecedented degree of resolution and clarity.

A Hungarian holographic company has teamed up with BAE Systems to develop a new generation of 3D display technologies giving an unprecedented degree of resolution and clarity, as well as a much wider field of view.

Budapest-based Holografika is developing a holographic display that overcomes many of the limitations of current displays by reconstructing 3D images that can be viewed by a number of people from a wide field of view.

The €3m (£2m), EU-funded Holovision project will allow viewers to see the image from any number of different directions without losing fidelity of picture.

Researchers at BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology Centre (ATC) in Bristol are validating early data from the project’s design stage before the construction of a working prototype begins in earnest this year.

BAE Systems subsidiary Insyte is also collaborating on the project, designing software prototypes for viewing images of terrain that can make the most of a high-resolution 3D display.

The technology builds on the same principles as Holografika’s proprietary Holovizio technology, which the company has developed over the past two years.

But according to Jeremy Hinton, a vision and display researcher at ATC, the aim of the project is to produce a display 10 times better than the current generation of Holovizio displays in almost every respect — resolution, colour fidelity and update rate.

One of the biggest problems for 3D prototype systems is that the field of view is often limited to no more than 20 degrees. The huge amounts of data required to create an image easily viewed from a greater angle than this means that 3D images are often only useful for a single person at a time.

Engineers on the Holovision project are investigating a number of new technologies that will allow them to develop a screen that can be seen in perfect 3D from up to 60 degrees.

Techniques based on cluster computing will enable millions of pixels to be controlled simultaneously, while high-speed LCOS (Liquid Crystal on Silicon) panels will be integrated with very bright LEDs to produce a uniform image.

The key to the project is the development of an LED-based light source fast enough to cope with high frame rates, while still offering high colour and image resolution. The light source must also be robust enough to survive the heat generated by the display.

According to Holografika project leader Andras Csuzi, applications for the technology will be mostly in the professional field rather than for entertainment.

‘We see it as a tool for things like CAD design, architecture, simulation and scientific modelling,’ he said. ‘It could also be used in medical areas for planning surgical procedures, because it enables a large group of people to look at the same image simultaneously.’

Now the design phase has been completed, the project team is moving into the development of the individual system components. A working prototype is expected to be ready by early next year.

‘This technology has never been done in this way before, so there are a number of challenges at the moment,’ said Csuzi. ‘However, it is looking very promising.’

Holografika has also worked with a number of European academic institutions including Glasgow Design Studio as part of a €3.7m European project called Coherent. As part of this project the consortium has developed a 3m-wide holographic screen designed to be used for virtual network collaboration by research institutions located a long way from each other.

The Coherent demonstrator is scheduled to be launched at the Euro-Southeast Asia ICT Forum 2006 (EUSEA 2006) at the end of this month.