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Besides being a generally cool idea, French inventor Michel David’s volumetric display prototype gets serious wacky-contraption style points. Making a 3D image by projecting light on a spinning helical vane is not a new idea; Michel himself cites the vertical-axis FELIX 3D display for inspiration, and this 2002 paper from the FELIX 3D folks traces the technology as far back as 1958. (Thanks to Hack a Day commenter AJ for that link.)

Michel puts the cost of his machine at €40, and though his results are definitely proof-of-concept quality, I have to agree with Mike Szczys that the prototype itself “looks like a DaVinci sketch.” Can’t wait to see what the next one looks like. [via Hack a Day]

Volumetric Display – The Critical Technologist

Pico Projector + Light Fixture + Free Code = Desktop Spherical Display

Sean Michael Ragan

I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I write for MAKE, serve as Technical Editor for MAKE magazine, and develop original DIY content for Make: Projects.



  1. fire115 says:

    The concept is there…but it looks like it will be years before he is able to display a 32X32 pixel icon that actualy looks like something.

  2. Looks like a hybrid of a 1920s mechanical Baird TV and a 1930s mirror-screw mechanical TV. I’ve always wished Maker Shed had mechanical TV kits. What could be better as a maker than having the bragging rights to saying you made your own TV?

  3. Looks like the low-tech, analog film approach could basically get arbitrarily high resolution in at least two dimensions (to the limits of the optics and screen, anyway), if he switched to plastic transparencies instead of cutout light shields. You could effectively print in as high a resolution as you like, within the limits of the optics. Of course, “dimensions” are a bit odd to speak of on a helical surface. The third “dimension” is limited by the strobe rate of the light source, which would be more complex.

    I do like the simple optical effect, as opposed to computer generated video displays. If nothing else, it seems like there could be some toy applications. Something like Viewmaster discs you could swap out, with single volumetric slices in lieu of the stereo pairs. Heck, if you could come up with a really simple and cheap addressable display that could create a handful of light points/voxels, you could make simple 3D games. Have a higher rez but static 3D game board using this process, then a much lower rez system that could move dots around on the screen- a 3D version of those old handheld electronic games that moved simple red LED pips around on a fancy painted backdrop (handheld football, etc). Of course, even a “simple” display designed to track a handful of voxels would require significant processing power (certainly more than the base display, which could possibly be done solely with analog components, if the right optical encoders were designed), so that’s likely outside of scope here.

  4. Steev says:

    For a fixed Z-plane volumetric display with N levels, you can use a nipkow disc and N*fps projection surfaces. The helix provides a good analog approximation, but the trick is sync’ing the rotation of the nipkow to the rotation of the helix.