Holographic televisions could be in living rooms in the next 10 years at the price of today’s two-dimensional sets because of technology being developed by Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, said Michael Bove, head of the lab’s Object-Based Media Group.
The lab, known for inventing the technology behind electronic ink, has created a holographic chip that can support the display of more than 50 gigapixels per second and simulate real-life objects by bending projected light in a continuous range of directions, eliminating the need for three-dimensional glasses. The development of the chip, or spatial light modulator, will be reported in the journal Nature.
“The technology itself is one that’s easy and inexpensive and, as far as we are aware and Nature is aware, has never been applied to displays before,” Bove said, adding that the device has cost “tens of dollars” to build and maintain.
The chip could be used in applications ranging from video games to robotic surgery, he said.
His group is currently in talks with the lab’s corporate members about acquiring the chip’s technology. While Bove declined to name any specific companies involved in the discussions, the lab’s corporate members include LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.
Samsung is the world’s biggest seller of 3-D televisions with 27 percent of the market, followed by LG with 17.6 percent, according to researcher NPD DisplaySearch. Sales of such TVs are expected to reach $47.3 billion this year and are projected to increase 26 percent to $59.7 billion in 2016, NPD said.
The development of the chip has been more than 20 years in the making at MIT. Researchers at the institute had been working with holograms since 1989 with late professor Stephen Benton, who built the first video holographic display.
“This is a very long-term project, but it’s accelerated a lot in this past couple of years,” Bove said. “This is not just something that we woke up a few weeks ago and said, ‘Let’s make holograms.’”
MIT graduate student Daniel Smalley has conducted most of the current chip-design work as part of his doctoral research project, Bove said. To reduce costs, the group has used off-the-shelf hardware such as Kinect, a camera designed for Microsoft Corp.’s Xbox gaming console, to build a holographic system around the chip.
The chip has successfully projected multiple holograms, including a one of a graduate student dressed as Princess Leia in “Star Wars,” Bove said.
“We would like to be able to do that as a full-size person, so if you have to have a meeting with a person, you could have the person in front of you with no screen involved,” Bove said.