Coming next year: Hologram TVs?

The way that 3D works right now is by showing each one of your eyes two slightly different 2D images, and together they sort of fool your brain into thinking that you’re looking at one single 3D scene. Sort of. But it’s not quite right, which is where the eye strain and headaches come from. To make an honest-to-goodness 3DTV, we’d need some sort of technology that would actually generate 3D images: a holographic projector, in other words. We’ve gotten very good at making static holograms, but moving holograms are an entirely different kettle of fish.

The European research firm Imec has been working on a way to take advantage of microelectromechanical system fabrication to develop a display that can dynamically create a hologram of whatever you want, which is like the holy grail of holographic displays. It works with a whole bunch of little tiny (half-micron) reflective platforms that can move up and down. When lasers are shined on these platforms, they bounce it around in such a way that the resulting patterns of light waves interfere with themselves both constructively and destructively, resulting in a 3D holographic image. It sounds completely nuts, I know, but the picture at the top of this article shows a static, multicolor hologram (of a building, in case you can’t tell) being generated with just these little platforms.