Magic mirrors make 3D real

Ten years of research by a team at the University of Strathclyde has brought the dream of life-size, floating 3D images to life.

Their perseverance – and a commercial link-up – is also making the prospect of using the resulting displays for space exploration and a host of 3D design applications a reality.

The images are created using large aperture plastic membrane mirrors – and can range from a person’s own reflection reaching out to meet them to fullyinteractive computer generated 3D worlds and artefacts.

Membrane mirrors – invented by mechanical engineer Dr Peter Waddell at the University of Strathclyde and now patented world-wide – are relatively cheap to manufacture and the mirrored surface membrane is cheap to replace ifdamaged – around £5 for a 1.2m diameter mirror.

The Mechanical Engineering Imaging Group at the University of has linked up with US-based Ethereal Technologies – who are taking the membrane mirrors to blue-chip companies designing and manufacturing products ranging from tanks and trains to planes and cars.

Engineer Steve Mason, a member of the research team, said: ‘The day is not far away when not just designers, but the general public too, will be able to see glasses-free 3D in real life scenarios.’