October 6, 2008

3-D TV May Be Possible

What could be in store for the future of in-home television? Researchers say it may be holographic 3-D television.

Earlier this year researchers at the University of Arizona discovered a breakthrough in rewritable and erasable holographic systems.

Dr Nasser Peyghambarian, chair of photonics and lasers at the university's Optical Sciences department, said scientists have broken a barrier by making the first updatable three-dimensional displays with memory.

"This is a prerequisite for any type of moving holographic technology. The way it works presently is not suitable for 3-D images," he said.

Peyghambarian said the ten-member team of researchers has been working on hologram technology since 1990. He believes that much of the difficulty in creating a holographic set has now been overcome.

"It took us a while to make that first breakthrough, but as soon as you have the first element of it working the rest often comes more rapidly," he said. "What we are doing now is trying to make the model better. What we showed is just one color, what we are doing now is trying to use three colors. The original display was four inches by four inches and now we're going for something at least as big as a computer screen."

Many veteran researchers of the technology now agree with Peyghambarian that it may be possible to create a TV capable of producing 3-D holographic images.

Tung H. Jeong, a retired physics professor at Lake Forest College outside Chicago who had studied holography since the 1960s told NJ.com; "When we start talking about erasable and rewritable holograms, we are moving toward the possibility of holographic TV ... It has now been shown that physically, it's possible."

Peyghambarian is also optimistic that the technology could reach the market within five to ten years. He said progress towards a final product should be made much more quickly now that a rewriting method had been found.

But, no need to get rid of that LCD TV just yet, because some experts disagree with Peyghambarian's optimistic view.

Justin Lawrence, a lecturer in Electronic Engineering at Bangor University in Wales, agrees that steady progress is being made in the technology, but said he can't foresee it being available on a wide scale in the next ten years.

"It's one thing to demonstrate something in a lab but it's another thing to be able to produce it cheaply and efficiently enough to distribute it to the mass market," Lawrence said.

However, the Japanese Government is pushing huge financial and technical weight into the development of three-dimensional, virtual-reality television, and the country's Communications Ministry is aiming at having such technology available by 2020. This could help usher in the technology in less time than some expect.

Although there are no major sponsors at the moment, Peyghambarian said he hopes that will change in the near future.

There is also hope that support could come from outside of the consumer electronics industry, he said.

"It could have some other applications. In training it's useful to show people three-dimensional displays. Also it would be good to show things in 3-D for defense command and control and for surgery," he said.


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