TUCSON - A team of University of Arizona researchers has developed technology that is being seen as a potential advance in 3-D video and movies.
"As a result of our success, our funding has increased, and we have more researchers working on this program," said Nasser Peyghambarian, chair of lasers and photonics in the College of Optical Sciences at the university.
The researchers have technology for a 3-D display that is "updatable." In other words, the technology allows 3-D hologram images to be shown, deleted and then changed to a new image.
The process currently takes minutes, much longer than would be required to project rapidly moving action such as in a ballgame or a sitcom, but Peyghambarian said the technology makes holographic televisions a future possibility.
"Until now, there has been no large holographic device that is erasable," Peyghambarian said. "This is the first step."
Peyghambarian notes that the technology, which has been in development at the university since 1990, still faces obstacles before 3-D imaging replaces conventional televisions.
In addition to needing a much faster refresh rate, the current technology can be displayed in only one color. Also, people must view the new holographic images straight on without tilting their heads up or down.
"There's a lot to be done, but I'm an optimist," Peyghambarian said. "I think products could start to be marketed in 10 years."
Some in the business are excited about the UA team's achievement and what it could mean for the future.
"This is moving toward where we all hoped holography would be eventually," said Paul Barefoot, who founded a holography company, Holophile Inc., in 1975 and worked with the now-closed Museum of Holography in New York City.
Barefoot said holography has been a still medium until now, but that having updatable images is the ultimate advance.
"This is progress on what people were expecting when they saw the hologram of Princess Leia in the first 'Star Wars' movie," Barefoot said.
Still, some experts remain skeptical that the technology could change the way we watch television anytime soon.
"I've been hearing about 'breakthroughs' in holographic television and motion pictures for the past 30 years," said Frank DeFreitas, who has had a laser and holography studio in Pennsylvania for 25 years.
However, he added, "if this particular breakthrough happens to be the one, then it is indeed a very exciting time in history."