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The word, Hologram is composed of the Greek terms, "holos" for "whole view"; and gram, meaning "written". A hologram is a three-dimensional record of the positive interference of laser light waves. A technical term for holography is wavefront reconstruction[1].

Holograms are photographic images that are three-dimensional and appear to have depth. Holograms work by creating an image composed of two superimposed 2-dimensional pictures of the same object seen from different reference points[2] .

Because duplicating a hologram is extremely difficult, holograms are frequently used for security purposes on credit cards and many currencies as well as passports, identification cards and DVDs[2].


History of Hologram

The theory of holography was first developed by British (native of Hungary) scientist Dennis Gabor in 1947 while he was working to improve the resolution of an electron microscope. Gabor invented the term hologram from the Greek words holos, meaning "whole," and gramma, meaning "message". Further development in the field of holography was stymied for the next decade because light sources that was available at the time were not truly "coherent" meaning that they were unable to produce clear hologram at the time. In 1960, the emergence of the laser beam by Russian scientists N. Bassov and A. Prokhorov and American scientist Charles Towns provided a high degree of coherence light source, which provides the possibility of the development of holographic techniques and overcomes the problems of the first generation hologram. This second generation of holography solve the problem of the light source, and in the three-dimensional imaging, interfere with the guide to the significant progress in the fields of application of the measuring and testing, the information storing; however, holograms that these lasers reproduce lost the tone information.[3]

Later on in 1968, the rainbow or Benton hologram is invented by Dr. Stephen A. Benton at Polaroid Corporation [4] Rainbow holograms are designed for normal individual to view the image clearly under white light illumination, rather than laser light which was required before this. The rainbow holography recording process require use of a horizontal slit to eliminate vertical parallax in the output image and to greatly reduce spectral blur while preserving three-dimensionality of the image for most observers. A viewer moving up or down in front of a rainbow hologram will be able to see changing spectral colors rather than just different vertical perspectives. Stereopsis and horizontal motion parallax, two relatively powerful cues to depth, are preserved.

In 1972, Lloyd Cross, an American physicist, developed the integral hologram by combining white-light transmission holography with conventional cinematography to produce 3-dimensional images that is able to move. A sequence of 2-D motion-picture footage of a rotating subject are recorded on one holographic film. When viewed, the composite images are synthesized by the human brain as a 3-D image. In the 70's holographic film starts to be produced and the other use of hologram reminds to be for security purposes. Recently, many countries have decided to use the transparent Hologram to prevent counterfeiting for their currencies.

Current Applications

As the technology of hologram improves, firms have been able to develop 3D digital holographic images, hologram imagers and interactive 3D displays for government and commercial uses. The company Zebra Imaging is able to offers digital holograms that are autostereoscopic (no glasses or goggles required), full-parallax (viewing of the image from viewpoints above and below as well as from side to side) and in monochrome or full-color. [5] Since 3D images are called hologram in the movie Star Trek, this term become acceptable for general public when describing images that can display in three dimensional.

Zebra Imaging

Zebra Imaging, founded in 1996 by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduates, is one of the first to produce and market holographic products to the general market. Currently, they sell two types of products: holographic prints, and motion displays.[5]

Digital Holographic Prints

Holographic print of a cityscape.

Zebra’s holographic prints are thin sheets of plastic film that can display true, 3D images when illuminated. There are several customizable options for the print, such as choice in color, size, and orientation. Customers can also choose to have their print display a single static 3D image, or up to four different images, which can be seen separately at different angles of view. These prints allow owners to visualize their 3D data in a 360 degree view in front of them.[5] Current uses of these prints fall into three broad categories:

  1. Architecture, Engineering and Construction: The use of holograms greatly improves the ability to visualize projects. Architects are able to order a single print that can show different stages of project development or different level views of exterior and interior. Similarly, engineers can see their designs in 3D, and highlight important sections. In construction, physical three-dimensional building models can be replaced by light-weight, portable holographic versions.
  2. Advertising, Retail and Entertainment: Holographic prints can be made to display products in 3D. Ford’s B-Max Hologram is an example. We can see here that the motor vehicle company Ford uses the technology of holography to produce a three dimensional image of their product for display purposes.
  3. Defense and Intelligence: Currently the largest market for Zebra, the U.S. military uses holographic prints to visualize city streets and landscapes. The three-dimensional view of roads and buildings allow the military to operate their exercises with much better awareness and knowledge of their battleground.

In addition to these markets, Zebra also sells their holographic print service to anyone with a 3D design. If you have a 3D design you would like to see in hologram form, simply format your 3D data, upload it to Zebra and place an order for your print.[5]Here are some benefits of using digital holographic prints:

True 3D: No special eyewear is required for enjoying a 360-degree viewing range.

Field proven: Thousands of unclassified holographic images have already been utilized by the US military for visualization and defense planning applications.

Multiple copies: Unlike physical models such as physical 3D models, you can easily produce multiple "leave behinds" for clients, investors and other stakeholders.

Easy to view: Illuminate the hologram with a simple halogen or LED light source, no special viewing equipment is required.

Portable and durable: Holographic prints are easy to carry and transport; these prints come with protective coatings for durability, and they can be marked on and rolled up and taken in the field.

Reliable archives: These three-dimensional images are "version proof" and easy to store, so you can refer to them years later — without the need for a computer or specific software.

Full-color or monochrome formats: Complex information can be displayed with brilliant detail, transparency and color — and feature greater accuracy than physical models.

Holographic Motion Display

Holographic Motion Display is also another product from Zebra imaging using the holographic technology. These motion display is a machine that can be connected to your computer to display 3D holograms straight from your 3D application.[5]They can be used for geo-seismic and related 3D data visualization, medical training, military simulation and situational awareness as well as 3D entertainment and gaming.


Telehuman and Bodipod demonstration.

The TeleHuman is a 3D holographic chat system currently in development at the Human Media Lab in Queen’s University, Canada.[1] Using six Xbox Kinect sensors, a 3D projector and a cylindrical display, the system produces a 3D image on the display. Although the image is displayed on the cylindrical screen, the effect is a 360 degree view of the object, which appears to be right there just past the screen. The Kinect sensors are used to detect and capture video, gestures and sounds.


One creative use of the system so far is an interactive 3D browser of the anatomy of the human body, named the BodiPod.[1] The BodiPod displays a model of the human body, and can be manipulated through motion control to show different layers of the body. For example, waving your hand in the air can peel a layer of tissue off the model. The user can explore the different layers of the human anatomy, going from the skin to the organs to the bone structure. Using voice commands such as “show brain” zooms the application to the brain.[1]

The combination of the Kinect sensors with 3D projection is being developed to become a system that can capture and display 3D video such that users can communicate with holographic versions of each other. Still at a young stage, this type of research could be the first steps to achieving holographic communications such as we see in movies and on television. It could be very possible that meetings can be held with members not needing to be physically available at the meeting space. Lecturers do not need to be at the lecture hall to give their lectures. Professors can bring in busy experts into the classroom without the expert needing to travel. This technology not only saves people time, but also facilitates more convenient and updated transfers of information.

Future Outlook

True 3D Hologram

3D representation of an apple in mid-air.

Japanese tech firm Burton Inc. has developed the ability to display true 3D holograms in the air, without use of screens.

“Most of the 3D displays reported until now draw pseudo-3D images on 2D planes by utilizing the human binocular disparity. However, many problems occur, e.g., the limitation of the visual field, and the physiological displeasure due to the misidentification of virtual images.
To overcome the mensioned problems, we tried to research and succeed in developing "True 3D Display" which can produce bright dot in the air so audience can see 3D images in true 3D space.”[2]

Real-Time Holographic Imaging

Dr. Nasser Peyghambarian is a scientist at the University of Arizona that has been working on a system that captures video input and projects it at a different location as a hologram in nearly real-time. Using a large array of cameras, video is recorded in one room, then the computer data is transferred and projected by lasers in a separate room. The projected hologram is 3D and animates according to the video data. However, the response time is still very slow, the image moving only once every two seconds. The scientists are still working on improving frame rate, and hope that this technology can be in homes in 7-10 years.

"Let's say I want to give a presentation in New York. All I need is an array of cameras here in my Tucson office and a fast Internet connection. At the other end, in New York, there would be the 3D display using our laser system." -Dr. Peyghambarian[3]

Touchable Hologram

Touchable Holography.

Tokyo University

A Touchable Hologram is a combination of an apparently three dimensional light projection, a sensor array, and some type of tactile feedback. It is impossible to actually touch and feel holograms, but the use of a sensor array and Haptic Technologycan provide the illusion of touch. Sensors are used so that a computer will be able to adjust the behavior of a holographic projection when it is touched, and haptics are employed to provide an actual sensory input. A number of different haptic technologies can be used to create a touchable hologram, though ultrasound was chosen for some of the first designs.[1]

The researchers, led by Professor Hiroyuki Shinoda of Tokyo University, have devised a projector that not only displays the hologram in open space, but also includes a pair of Nintendo Wii controllers that can sense motion and the position of your hand in the field where the hologram is being projected. That way the computer controlling the hologram knows where your hand is when you interact with it. They also built an array of computer-controlled ultrasonic wave emitters with fine points that, when the hologram lands on the surface of your hand, emit pulses of air that feel like pressure on your hand. This way the system knows where your hand is, and when the hologram touches your hand, the ultrasonic waves make your hand feel like an object is there. It doesn’t create the sensation of weight or heft, but a prolonged or more powerful burst can indicate a “heavier” hologram.[2]

Microsoft Vermeer

Microsoft's Vermeer is able to produce a moving 3D image floating in mid-air at 15 frames per second.[3] The system is created by combining a mirascope with a light display and cameras. The result is a hologram that can be interacted with through touch. Your fingers touch where the hologram appears to be and the hologram responds. However, you do not physically touch anything. Cameras inside the mirascope detect fingers and capture images to be displayed.[3]

Business Implications

Hologram potentially have the ability to improve communication and provide aids for many visual aspects of businesses. However, holographic technology is still at a very primitive state. With more and more innovative development, we are seeing the beginnings of truly useful holographic technology.


Real-time hologram can add a new dimension to current video chatting. Current video chatting technology only displays a flat image. We can only view the display from one angle, and can only see one side. The other sides are invisible to us. However, with real-time 3D holograms, we can hold face-to-face conversations, and see people from different angles. Expressions and body languages can also be visualized, making the experience of the meeting much more realistic and interactive. However, the real draw of holographic technology is the ability to "teleport" people to different locations to meet up and have conversations. Compared to seeing a face on a monitor, the holographic representation of people offers an experience close to that of a real life conversation. For businesses, this could mean immense savings in travel expenses and time. As advances are made in projects such as Telehuman and real-time holographic projections, we could see the situations in the following videos truly happen.


Innovative product display.

In the marketing industry, any new technology, any new method of attracting and creating buzz around products is highly valuable. With holographic technology becoming more and more available, there is an opportunity for businesses to take advantage of this new way of advertising. A product display, using holographic technology, can show a product, its features, and additional information all within the single display. The display can be animated, and can include much more depth than current physical, static product displays. In addition, the use of holographic images allows models of products to be shown to investors and prospective buyers without needing to transport the physical product, which may be difficult due to size and security. The uses of holographic technology in this field are endless.

Education and Training

The introduction of holographic technology in the field of education and training can revolutionize the way information is taught to students or trainees. With the ability to "teleport" a person into the classroom, guest speakers can conveniently convey their knowledge to the audience. The audience experiences the lecture as if they were being spoken to by a real, physical person in front of them. Dr. Peyghambarian's research into recording and projecting holograms in real-time could directly translate into this situation being a reality. Physical objects that are hard to bring into the classroom can also be shown to students via holograms. The Bodipod application of the TeleHuman system is an example of this. Students can study the inner workings of the human body without needing to look into a cadaver. Similarly, the earth, different animals, space, can all be examined in the confines of a classroom with the presence of holographic technology.

In training, the military and medical applications are the first to come to mind. Military exercises can be performed using holograms to represent enemy soldiers, explosions, and other dangerous situations. The training is much more realistic, and much less dangerous. Medically, the use of holograms allows precise operations to be practiced and simulated in a virtual environment. Surgeons can practice and train realistically without risking lives. Additionally, uncommon procedures can be practiced over and over again. Training with holograms can help military and medical personnel be better prepared to do their work, directly benefiting soldiers and patients. As the holography industry grows, the use of holographic technology in training will expand. The costs savings and the level of effectiveness of training that holography can provide will become very important to businesses across all industries.


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