Star Wars-inspired royal hologram in Tokyo

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Researchers at Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology have advanced in the development of functional holograms. They were inspired by the first cinematographic projectors of the 19th century and R2D2 in that scene from Star Wars: A New Hope in which then Princess Leia Organa sends a distress call to Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Metasurfaces nanomaterials capable of handling light in a unique way were used, according to the research. Thus, it was possible to develop a “real” hologram with the Earth rotating on its axis as an example. “Metasurfaces involve very small repeated patterns at scales smaller than the wavelength of light,” say the researchers. Thus, changing the path of light, a loop of 48 rotating Earth pictures was created. It is simple; with limitations, but functional.

“Real” hologram

“We are using a helium-neon laser as a light source, which produces a red holographic image,” said Kentaro Iwami, engineer and author of the study. According to him, the objective is to develop the project in color so that it can be observed from any angle.

In publishing the results, the researchers cited holograms of pop stars, such as that of rapper Tupac Shakur. They said “they are not real holograms” and this is noticeable “if the viewer moves slightly to the side” of the display.

6 hours to be created

To create the 48 pictures simulating the rotation of the planet, an electron beam lithography printer was used. This specific project took 6 and a half hours to draw and it is short and looped; the holographic film itself is played at a rate of 30 frames per second. The researchers estimate that a 6-minute holographic film would take more than 800 hours to draw.

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