If the world of Star Trek were real Spot Cool Stuff would probably spend the majority of our time in a holodeck—a computer generated world fantasy world in which everything feels real. So it is probably for the best that holodecks are fictional. Or, at least, fictional at the moment. Researchers at Tokyo University have come up with a technology that makes holodecks a step closer to reality—”touchable” holograms.
We have to qualify the word “touchable” because these new holograms offer no tactile experience; you can not feel them. However, while holograms until now have been purely visual—if you’d try to touch one your hand would go right through—these holograms are interactive. Check out these holograms in action in the video below.
This latest breakthrough in hologram technology is based on, of all things, a Wii video game system. The Tokyo University researchers used sensors virtually identical to those that the Wii uses to track a player’s hand movements. To that they added software that employs ultrasonic waves to create the effect of a person “touching” the hologram.
At the moment only simple objects can be rendered in touchable holographic form, though even that is enough for practical applications. With the current state of the technology it would be possible to create, for example, a light switch that would appear and disappear as needed. Eventually it should be possible to make such things as holographic books and computer keyboards appear on demand.
In these ways touchable holograms might be bringing us closer to the world of Harry Potter than that of Star Trek. Though, personally, we are still holding out for a holodeck of our own.
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