On October 2 each year, India celebrates Gandhi Jayanti
– the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. And if you are in the same filter bubble as I am, you would have read a news headline saying, “Gandhi Jayanti 2019:
Mahatma Gandhi Brought To Life”. How was that madepossible?
On October 2, 2019, the fourth Ahimsa lecture was organised by UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) in cooperation with the Permanent Delegation of India at the UNESCO headquarters, Paris. It was this lecture that brought Gandhi to life in the form of a three-dimensional hologram. This life-sized hologram addressed the audience on Gandhian thoughts. Another time holograms were in the news was when the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Narendra Modi, used holograms during his election campaign in 2014. He used 3D holograms to speak live at rallies in dozens of remote towns all over India. It was the first time that hologram technology was used in a general election campaign. Holograms also found their place in a famous German circus, Roncalli, to make it cruelty-free. It replaced real animals with massive, stunning holographic animals that included horses, lions and elephants. They collaborated with Bluebox and used eleven laser projectors to achieve this.
If you think you haven’t seen a hologram in real, then think again. Holograms are used in our daily lives more often than you think. Chances are you are carrying one in your pocket right now. Currency notes such as the Brazilian real, British pound, South Korean won, Japanese yen, Indian rupee and all the currently circulating banknotes of the Canadian dollar, Croatian kuna, Danish krone, and Euro have security holograms or diffractive Optically Variable Devices (OVDs) on it. It can also be found on credit and debit cards, ID cards, books, etc. Security holograms are used for protection against counterfeiting as they are very difficult to forge. This is because they are reproduced from a master hologram that requires technologically advanced equipments and highly specialized work demanding expertise in this field. Nearly 100 countries over the world employ a hologram to protect their banknotes.
What are Holograms? The word holography is taken from the Greek words holos or “whole” and graphē or ‘writing’ or ‘drawing’. Holograms are sort of “photographic ghosts”. It is a physical structure that uses light diffraction to create an image which appears to be three-dimensional showing depth and parallax. If you look at holograms from different angles, you would see objects changing perspectives, just like you would if you were looking at a real object. Some holograms even appear to move as you walk past them. A hologram is almost like a hybrid of viewing a photograph and a real object. One of the interesting properties of a hologram is that even when it is torn in small pieces, the whole image can be seen in each piece! This technology is not new, it emerged many decades ago. It can be traced back to the late 1940s, when the Hungarian-British physicist Dennis Gabor invented electron holography. The development of laser enabled the first practical optical holograms that recorded 3D objects.
To create a hologram, a laser beam is split into two separate halves and both the light waves travel in identical ways. One part of the beam bounces off a mirror, hits the object, and reflects onto the photographic plate inside which the hologram will be created. The other part of the beam bounces off another mirror and hits the same photographic plate. By recombining these beams in the photographic plate, we can identify how the light rays in the first beam have changed as compared to the second beam. This shows how the object changes after light rays fall onto it. This information is engraved permanently into the photographic plate by the laser beams.
In its early days, holography required high-power and expensive lasers, but now, mass-produced low-cost laser diodes can be used and have made holography much more accessible. Most of us have experienced 2D and 3D technologies but the latest addition to the holographic technology is 7D. 7D hologram is a technique of capturing a high-quality hologram using 7 parameters, called dimensions. From each viewpoint in a three-dimensional space, viewing direction is captured in a two-dimensional space and for each viewing direction time and light properties are captured. So, the seven parameters are: 3D position + 2D angle + time + image intensity (light properties). In simpler words, the main difference between a 3D and a 7D Hologram is that in 7D the subject or the whole scenario is captured from a larger number of viewpoints. This technology is still in the experimental stage but we will soon be able to experience it.
Holograms have appeared in a wide range of books, live-action movies, television series, animations etc. There has been unrealistic depiction of holograms in fiction, which resulted in the general public having overly high expectations of the capabilities of holography. Some of the famous movies that featured holograms are Star Wars, Batman, Iron Man, Wall-E and Avatar. Star Trek, Power Rangers, The Simpsons and The Flash are some of the TV series which featured this technology. Holography has gained a lot of popularity in the world of video gaming as well. Recently, Sony Interactive Entertainment was granted a patent for a 3D holographic display screen by USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) which will be compatible with a game console to experience PlayStation 3D games without the 3D glasses. It has detailed eye tracking as well as facial recognition technology included. It can determine the number of people looking at the display. It is equipped with cameras and a light sensor which calculate the distance between the gamer and the screen. What’s more, this screen is even capable of recognizing gestures, including blinking of eyes, winking or nodding the head.
A team of researchers in Japan of Burton Inc., created a holographic projector which enables laser focused aerial display of text and images. It is achieved by focusing 1kHz infrared pulse to a single point in the air and breaking down air molecules to separate positive and negative ions. The team designed this technology to be used for communication assistance during any disaster or emergency situations by producing bright floating holograms. One of the problems with this system is that the intensity of the laser is so high that, if it comes in contact with the skin of the user, it can cause significant burns. So, a new system has been designed allowing users to interact with the mid-air images by using femtosecond lasers which have lesser intensity. Not only are these holograms safe to touch but can also be felt. These tangible aerial holographic images are called Fairy Lights. Another application of the holographic technology is the Euclideon Hologram Table which is the world’s first multi-user hologram table. It can be used to display digital models of cities or buildings which can be zoomed in to single blades of grass. As claimed by the company, users can pick up objects from the hologram and move them around on the table. This table is commercially available for businesses.
Recently, a Japanese hotel ‘Henn-na’ caught the eye of the media for using friendly dinosaurs as their front-desk staff. This hotel, located in Tokyo’s buzzing Ginza district, is the world’s first hologram hotel. While checking in, the visitors are welcomed at the reception by holographic virtual staff like a ninja, or even a dinosaur (who apparently gets excited every time it sees a human). This allows real human staff to do other important work. Each hologram can speak 4 different languages — English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. There are cameras and sensors placed at the front desk which alerts the holographic receptionists when someone approaches. They can also read the visitors’ emotions and respond accordingly. This hotel is part of Japan’s cutting-edge hotel chain that opened one of the first hotels completely staffed by robots. The company behind Henn-na has revealed plans to open more than 100 properties worldwide over the next five years.
As we move towards a digitally advanced future, the potential of fusing physical atmosphere with the virtual world interaction between the physical and virtual worlds will no longer remain just a figment of our imagination. Holograms have many interesting and effective use cases which can push the limits of user experience. It has a wide scope of transforming businesses in new and unforeseen ways when fully implemented.