Chiba University team has computer powerful enough to make it a reality

Though the technology was perfected a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, computer scientists at Japan’s Chiba University have spent a quarter-century trying to produce 3D hologram video. Now, they’re very close to pulling it off. In a concept straight out of “Star Wars,” Tomoyoshi Ito and his team began Project HORN (holographic reconstruction) in 1993 with their first computation system. Now on HORN-8, they have enough computing power to make the dream a reality.

HORN-8, officially the world’s fastest computer for holography, can adjust the phase of light. With this new step, the team was able to project hologram information as a high-quality 3D video.

“We have been developing the high-speed computers for 3D holography by implementing the knowledge of information engineering and the technology of electrical and electronic engineering and by learning insights from computer science and optical methods,” Ito reflected. “This is a result of the interdisciplinary approach of our research that has been conducted for over 25 years with the commendable effort by our students who have been studying at our lab.”

The challenge in producing 3D hologram video is computing technology powerful enough to project more than 10 frames per second at 1 trillion pixels per frame. Making a 3D object from 2D data is a tricky proposition. Televisions equipped with 3D use the binocular parallax — the difference in the angles formed by the sight lines to two objects at different distances from the eyes — which can actually harm children trying to watch them.

Obviously, no one wants a telly that will literally scramble their kids’ brains instead of just doing it metaphorically. It’s one factor in why 3D tellies have had trouble catching on. Project HORN’s breakthrough might change all that, making 3D television safe for all users. Getting your distress signal to Obi Wan Kenobi might be a different story, but it’s a start.