A new glasses-free 3D video screen that can be watched by multiple users could help create more realistic videoconferencing.
Researchers at Southampton University are using the holographic-style display to design a flawless-quality communication system that comes closer to the impression that users are in the same room.
Most existing 3D video requires users to wear polarising glasses or can only be viewed by one or two people at a time located at specific angles to the screen.
But the display technology from Hungarian firm Holografika is closer to holographic video in that the 3D image can be seen by multiple users without glasses and the picture is different depending on the viewing angle.
The challenge for the Southampton team will be to process the large amounts of data needed to create 3D images on this screen, at faster rates than existing systems, said Prof Lajos Hanzo, head of Southampton’s Communications Research Group.
‘The research we’re doing is first of all capturing the hologram in a digital format and then trying to transmit it over the ether while trying to make sure it’s accurately represented and protected against transmission errors,’ he told The Engineer.
‘If possible, we want to compress it so the resources required for transmission are not huge. And finally, of course, we have to reproduce the image.’
This will be a big task given that the existing high-end videoconferencing systems already struggle to maintain a flawless and constant feed of 2D image data without time delay. But it is necessary to make the technology more realistic, said Hanzo.
‘Even the better-quality ITU [International Telecommunication Union] standard systems don’t really deliver telepresence. To get the feeling you are with the person you need proper 3D representation.’
Holograms are created by shining laser light onto an object or scene and recording the reflected interference patterns on a photo-sensitive plate. Hanzo hopes to digitally capture these holographic images and display them with Holografika’s technology.
This ‘HoloVizio’ screen is made up of tiny elements called voxels (rather than pixels) that can represent depth information. Each voxel emits multiple beams of light that vary in colour and intensity depending on which direction they travel.
Compressing the data can affect the image, but digital techniques can hide a certain amount of distortion by tricking the eye in the same way it sees a rapid series of pictures as a seamless moving image.
‘We’re hoping to squeeze the data to the same sort of level as standard stereoscopic 3D video, and, if possible, knock it further down,’ said Hanzo. This means aiming for a data-transfer rate of about 6Mb/s.
The team hope that the technology could eventually be transferred to mobile devices such as smartphones.