To demonstrate its potential for telepresence applications, Peyghambarian and colleagues photographed an object from 16 different angles with conventional video cameras. Computers then converted the video images into the form needed to make a hologram, and sent that information to a “receiver” some distance away using standard Ethernet communication protocols. The receiver contains a laser that interpreted the image data to “write” 100 holographic stripes into the 10-centimetre-square chunk of plastic over a period of 2 seconds. Next, a red, green and blue LEDs illuminated the plastic, recreating the phase, direction and amplitude of light waves reflected off the original object and forming a colour 3D holographic replica.

Rather like a rewritable DVD, writing a new hologram into the plastic erases the old one, allowing the researchers to create holographic video, albeit at a very low “frame rate”.