We are all familiar with the holographic technology of Star Wars. Princess Leia’s image is stuck in that plucky, little droid and Luke grabs a screwdriver, and suddenly, it’s “Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope!” And the rest is cinematic history. And now the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (the CIA version of DARPA) wants life to imitate art by funding their own holographic communications device.
”These requirements and practical operational environment constraints beg for new display technology transcending all current commercial offerings and their future projected capabilities,” – IARPA Request for Proposal.
Holographs are nothing new for stills, but video is a bit harder. Sure, there was that Tupac holographic video that showed at the Coachella Music Festival. But while some thought it was an amazing leap in technology, it turned out it was literally smoke and mirrors based on an illusion that was first performed over 100 years ago. So we haven’t really seen an actual video hologram yet. But IARPA wants to change that by funding a project with over $58 million in tax payer intelligence dollars.
And they’ve given the lion’s share after seeing a presentation on “Synthetic Holographic Observation” by Physical Optics Corporation, which since 1985 have been providing 3D graphics integration in everything from airline black boxes to flexible digital displays as part of a soldier’s “wearable personal area network” for the battlefield (although the award actually went to a California company called Ostendo Technologies, but POC provided the inspiration).
The idea of using holography is for intelligence analysts to be able to interact in 3D space with the massive flow of intelligence data coming from Satellites, Surveillance Drones, eavesdropping and even human intelligence reports … and do it without bulky headgear. This would liberate interpretation of data by displaying it in full-color 3D space on display-systems that can be simultaneously viewed in a meeting or war room from multiple angles and with an unaided eye. And nothing does that like a hologram. And you can easily see the advantages if you use your imagination. Or, there’s the possibilities of it helping on the battlefield:
Yeah, I know, it’s another Star Wars reference, but we already have remote controlled surveillance drones with multiple cameras that could provided similar data to an intelligence processor which would spit out a holographic 3D image, and if we can do it for national security applications, how long before we see the technology filter down into our every day lives? Sooner or later 3DTV is going to get passe. We already have augmented reality, which hasn’t even begun to reach its full potential. And there will be a point where the ultra high resolution will go beyond our capability to see the difference with our naked eyes.
So who wouldn’t want a holographic Facetime capable iPhone, or be able to watch the big game happening in the middle of their own living room? Sure, that’s probably 10-20 years away, if ever, but imaging being able to watch a movie in the round, instead of against a screen? Imagine live plays or concerts streaming into your living room like you were there in a front row seat, or the news spilling into your den, or that episode of The Walking Dead? (ok, forget that one, you may give granny a heart attack).