USAF wants to see in holographic 3-D

Holographic 3-D technology could enhance battlefield command and control

The Air Force Scientific Research Office has taken the wraps off a research project that uses holography to create high-definition, 3-D images. Scientists sponsored by the research office have pushed the technology forward by improving the memory, physical size and updating features of the 3-D images.

Research team leader Nasser Peyghambarian of the University of Arizona's Optical Sciences College said in a statement that the holographic 3-D technology promises improved battlefield command and control by providing realistic images that could be updated regularly and quickly.

"These images can also be used for training purposes as well," Peyghambarian said in a technology news item prepared by the Air Force office.

"Three-dimensional imaging allows a lot of data to be presented simultaneously, a task that is not possible with the use of two-dimensional pictures," Peyghambarian said. "Until now dynamic, holographic 3-D images suitable for practical uses did not exist. Our newly developed displays exhibit memory and large size, which makes them stand out among other approaches to dynamic 3-D imaging."

The new displays rely on holography to store the appearance of objects or scenes in thin films with the use of laser light, the Air Force office stated.

'We've replaced fixed holographic storage materials with dynamic ones," Peyghambarian said. "We use high-efficiency, low-cost dynamic recording materials capable of very large sizes, which is very important for life-size, realistic 3-D displays. We can record complete scenes or objects within three minutes and can store them for three hours."

Holographic videoconferencing equipment from companies such as EDS has been available for several years. But currently deployed commercial 3-D systems sometimes are called 'quasi-holographic,' because they fall short of full-motion, full-color holographic video, according to various technology news analysts.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have been developing progressively more sophisticated, cheaper and larger 3-Dl 'TV' systems. The university's magazine reported earlier this year that those full-motion displays have reached the definition quality of analog TV sets, and that the MIT team believes it can quickly improve its system. The researchers aim to field a system that would cost a few hundred dollars per unit, the university publication said.

Laser scientist Darrel G. Hopper, team lead at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, also is studying 3-D technology. Hopper uses the term 'true 3-D' to distinguish improved systems such as the updatable holographic displays Peyghambarian's team has developed.

"We develop and evaluate various true 3-D systems for their value added beyond the two-dimensional visualization technologies currently used ' for example, in Air Force combined air operations centers," Hopper said.

Peyghambarian's team plans to develop the technology further by expanding the displays first to 1 foot square and then to 3 feet square, render them in color and increase the images' writing speed, the scientific office stated.

"We also need to examine the psychological aspects of 3-D viewing and the question of how humans interact with 3-D displays," Peyghambarian said. "For example, it's believed that pilots may react and make decisions much faster if they receive 3-D information, which is much more realistic compared with the two-dimensional displays they currently use."

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