The evolution of 3D holographic technology: Part I: Interview with Javid Khan

Posted by Jennifer Stowe on Thu, May 23, 2013

Zebra Imaging reseller Javid Khan is the founder of the Edinburgh, Scotland-based 3D holographic company Holoxica. Khan, who has a background in engineering and electronics, decided to dive into the 3D holographic market because he wanted to help determine the direction the field would go in. 

An important point to understand, he explained, is that the average person doesn't really know how true 3D holograms and visuals work. Stereoscopic 3D, which has been adopted by Hollywood for the 3D movie and TV market, isn't really a true 3D experience. With stereo 3D, the viewer wears special glasses, with a slightly different image beamed through the lenses to each eye. This modified image creates the illusion of a third dimension, but is a very limited visual.

"It's okay for maybe the cinema - and even that's debatable nowadays - but it's ultimately a very poor way to do 3D. It's only good if you're seated in a certain position for a certain amount of time and you don't move your head too much," Khan explained. "Once you start moving your head around an object, then there are certain things that need to happen that don't with conventional 3D technology. And essentially this is where holographic technology comes into its own because you can move around objects: Things change in terms of perspective and the way your eye functions."

Common misconceptions about 3D
Khan explained that the arrival of advanced holographic technology has been expected for decades - since the 1970s when movies like Star Wars demonstrated how it could be used. But expectations have been so high that it has taken the technology a while to catch up. Khan said that holograms essentially went underground for a while and were mostly used by the U.S. military, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology or in other research settings. Now, however, that has changed.

"There have been people like Zebra and ourselves who have been working behind the scenes," Khan said. "And now we're coming out with products which can fulfill those [early] expectations."

In the meantime, over the past 15 years or so, other companies have "hijacked" the term hologram and begun using it to promote their own services. But many of these products aren't real holograms, explained Khan, using lighting and projectors to create illusions of 3D to do things like resurrect dead pop stars. They use a technique commonly known as Pepper's Ghost Illusion, which has been around for centuries but isn't a real 3D visual that you can interact with.

"This has caused a lot of confusion in the minds of consumers," Khan said, explaining that many don't really understand the different between these special effects and real 3D hologram.

The arrival of 3D holographic imaging
The message to consumers and others, Khan concluded, is that 3D holographic technology has finally arrived. Companies like Holoxica and Zebra can create true, dynamic 3D displays that don't rely on illusions or tricks, but that show 3D data in an interactive way.

"Real holograms are around now and they're available and accessible," Khan said. "Everyone knows what a real hologram is because of Star Wars. So I think the message to get out there is that the real holograms are emerging now and that the technology will be here [on a wider scale] soon."

Stay tuned for Part II in our series of stories about our interview with Javid Khan.

Tags: Holograms