3D images floating in the air

Craft & Design

Taking a clue from every Sci-Fi flick ever made, Japan’s National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) has developed a method of projecting three-dimensional images in the air. The system reflects laser light off of mirrors, and focuses that light into a point in the air using a plasma emission phenomenon. The result is pretty darn cool.

Three Dimensional Images in the Air – [via], Link

32 thoughts on “3D images floating in the air

  1. darkeye11547 says:


    As cool as this is, this made it’s first round of the intertubes something like six months ago.

    AFAIK, they still haven’t gotten it safe enough to hang out around without protective goggles, the main problem with running it out to market as is. Once they get that figured out though, this will be newsworthy.

  2. Hackius says:

    More like a year

  3. pillowcase says:

    Help me Obiwan!

  4. jiltedcitizen says:

    The real question is, why didn’t they project a deathstar?

  5. salsa says:

    Sure an oldie but SUCH a goodie! Saw this at SIGGRAPH last year– makes the most wonderful/awful tearing-through-the-space-time-continuum sound, plus everybody got a kick out of the technicians wearing heavy duty eye protection, though they were no closer to the device than us.

  6. Timbo says:

    This will probably never come out. And the reason is, that it is toxic. The plasma in the air burns the air producing nitrous oxides and ozone. And further the lasers are too slow to make a standing image of more then their 100 dots. But even if they make 10000 dots there is still no useful image that can be drawn with 10000 voxels per second.

  7. Timbo says:

    This will probably never come out. And the reason is, that it is toxic. The plasma in the air burns the air producing nitrous oxides and ozone. And further the lasers are too slow to make a standing image of more then their 100 dots. But even if they make 10000 dots there is still no useful image that can be drawn with 10000 voxels per second.

  8. One Man Army, Inc. says:

    This is a nice invention. I wonder how or if I can get one?

  9. WonderWheeler says:

    I wonder what it would do to your hand if you tried to touch it?

  10. bdgbill says:

    3d holograms are one of those futuristic things we think we want but when it finally becomes possible will have little practical use.

    Aside from industrial use and product demos I don’t see an upside to 3d. What are you going to do with hologram tv? keep walking in circles around the set to see what the actors backs look like?

    Look at video phones. they have been possible for decades but few people care.

  11. gschoppe says:


    you’re looking at an emergent technology with regards to our use of current technology… its like someone in the 1910’s saying “what’s the use of sending moving pictures of the stocks to the tickers” with regards to television…

    I, for one, can see many Amazing uses, both corporate and private:

    1) It would revolutionize CAD. Instead of working in 2d approximations, designers could use a tracked stylus to draw their designs directly in the air… if you added the haptic response pen someone recently started selling (sorry, bad memory), you could even get resistance similar to working in a real modeling media, while maintaining the perfect digitized version.

    2) Concepts and prototypes could be weeded through much more inexpensively with a 3d display, saving time on model building.

    3) Gaming… especially AOE/Civ style top-down games, would be amazing in 3d. Yes, I know it failed with goggles/caves, but I believe that was a technology that simply overreached the potential that it could achieve, and hit the “living-doll” reaction… too real in some ways, not real enough in others

    4) Art… ’nuff said

    5) Entertainment… I have often wondered if,with regards to 3d, you could invert the perspective of the viewer, and instead of placing him/her in the center of a scene that surrounds them, map their surroundings onto a cylindrical system… e.g. take a stereographic image of a 360 degree panorama and wrap it, image out, onto a one foot diameter cylinder. what would that effect look like to the viewer? would it be a better approximation of the experience than a cropped, flat 4×6 image, or not?

    6) medicine… real displays of ct scans and mris in 3d could help doctors localize a problem.. with a haptic response scalpel, it could air in basic training for doctors, saving on cadaver usage until the prospective surgeon is more competent.

    7) chat… video phone may be dead, but at Staples, I sure sold a lot of pairs of webcams every fall… imagine chatting in partial 3d… map only a 15-20 degree field of view, and you still have a much more personal communication. video phones aren’t used only because there are better ways of getting the same effect.

    8) radar… even with a simple rgb version of the demo above, a real 3d view of the sky surrounding an airport would be useful to the control tower.

    9) remote exploration… with radar, sonar, GPS, and strategically placed cameras, autonomous subs and planes would be much easier to control, and the returned data would be much easier to interpret if mapped onto a 3d environment that could be viewed from a better angle.

    10) surface free computing… with the correct lenses, there’s no reason that the projection couldn’t dwarf the actual projector… user interfaces based on finger position detection (I have ideas on how)could make cell phones, pdas, and media players better computer replacements… imagine carrying an iPod with a virtual 27″ screen… no more squinting to watch Seinfeld.

    number 10, if possible, interests me the most… a 2d or limited 3d (think puppet theater) display created from a small device embedded in furniture, or even handhelds, could revolutionize computing… imagine a monitor that can disappear into your workbench to give you more room, or a tv that’s a table until the big game… also, a thousand voxels ( 10*root(10) pixels square is icon-style resolution) is an ok number for the best the first stab into a TV-like tech revolution might achieve… its a similar tech to a Nipkow disk in my opinion. some Farnsworth will revolutionize it, and we’ll get working 3d surface-less displays… obviously 10 pixel squares don’t cut it, but this is a proof of concept… I doubt Nipkow showed any better when he first went public (entirely speculative, but wasn’t the first reported televised transmission a solid white line that wiggled?)

    anyway, that’s my rant… I’m a hopeful dreamer, but I think some of my above predictions will bear fruit in the future… hopefully strawberries… mmmm.

  12. zgr01084 says:

    @ gschoppe:

    Thanks. I wrote like a half page respond to that comment and hour or so ago and just closed the page because I just don’t want to start getting into fights online.

    Anyway, thanks for finishing what I intended to start.

    3D projection is gonna be great.

  13. WonderWheeler says:

    Fred Stitt, an author of architectural books like “Systems Drafting” was once rambling on in a 1980’s book flyleaf, about how in the future a laser would project an image into the air, and you would throw or spray some kind of plastic powder in the air where it would harden to a building!

  14. J. Peterson says:

    This appeared at the SIGGRAPH Emerging Technologies display a couple years ago. It’s genuine Mad Science, with lots of warning signs and the safety-goggled operators keeping the crowd at a safe distance. Rumor was they could only run it 20 minutes of every hour due to ozone buildup or somesuch. It does work, but the display complexity and resolution is limited. And it’s Loud – comparable to a construction-grade arc welder going full blast.

  15. ljdarten says:

    What if this were done in a clear enclosure of some sort with either a vacuum or filled with some non-reactive (to the laser) gas?

    It would take up a lot of space when not in use, but would get around the “burning” air problem.

    Or is the “burning” air what causes the image?
    in that case maybe this could still work with certain gases? ones that react and produce an image and then revert to their previous state?

    by the way, bdgbill, what are you doing on a site like this if you think something like this isn’t worth the time ;). If inventions didn’t get made because people didn’t see an immediate need or even use a lot of things we use everyday wouldn’t exist.

  16. Lionel Maduro says:

    this is very cool.. but i wonder.. isn’t this a bit dangerous.. i mean if you put your hand in a 3d image using this technic you’d burn your hand.. or not? does anyone have any ideas to prevent that?

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