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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Zebra Imaging

A company is bringing full-color, glasses-free holograms to life, and R2D2’s got nothing to do with it. Instead, Zebra Imaging creates true 3D objects through software and a fast, powerful printing machine.

ZI’s software places a virtual camera inside every point of a digital model’s holographic vertical plane, in order to record its surface volume. Since there are about a million of these points, the amount of data is huge. Zebra then prints the data (containing distinct POVs) to a plastic polymer, creating a sheet full of 1-mm holo tile encryptions. Each tile is basically an image data conductor sensitive to light. When light is shined, its energy scatters around and all image angles are revealed at once, popping up a free-standing 3D model. When I reached out to “touch” the 3D buildings in a demo, I felt nothing but air, revealing a true optical illusion.

Most other autostereoscopic tech uses enhanced versions of LCDs for displays, likeAlioscopy’s use of a lenticular lens array or the fast frame rates of Philips’ Quad Full TV.

This tech is important for a few reasons. Its printing scalability (and physical flexibility) offers the best portable 3D-hologram imaging yet. The wide angles and true depth volume of the renders help people collaborate easier in real space, as opposed to a 2D screen (and might help avoid visual fatigue). And the 3D slabs are cheaper and faster to make than models made of other materials, like clay. This is why the U.S. Army likes them — maps of constantly changing battlefields can be printed on the fly.

Unfortunately, the prints still cost thousands of dollars, so it’ll be a few years before they’re widely available.

Posted via web from SolidWild's posterous

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