Light Field Lab’s SolidLight offers a true holographic video display

The holographic video dream has long been a science fiction staple – the image of Princess Leia broadcast by R2-D2 in Star Wars, the holodeck in Star Trek: The Next Generation, and the shark featured in Marty McFly in Back to the future II are just three examples. Well, that fantasy is now ready to become reality, but without breaking the laws of physics. A Silicon Valley startup called Light Field Lab has developed the world’s first truly holographic digital display technology, which I had the privilege of seeing for myself during a visit to the company’s offices this week.

Before I tell you what it is, let me tell you what it is It is not. It’s not the technology used to resurrect Tupac Shakur on the concert stage at Coachella in 2012; That’s a 160-year-old effect called Pepper’s Ghost that literally uses smoke and mirrors to reflect floating 2D images. And it’s certainly not autostereoscopic 3D, which companies like Samsung, Sony, Looking Glass, and Stream TV have demonstrated for years. That technology presents separate 2D images for each eye, as long as it’s in the right place, and sometimes causes dizziness and nausea due to something called accommodation-vergence conflict, which can also affect glasses-based stereoscopic images and machine-mounted displays. head. .

Founded in 2017, Light Field Lab has developed a technology it calls SolidLight, which replicates exactly how light behaves in the real world. When you look at an object in the real world, light from the sun or another source reflects off the object at many different points in many different directions, some of which enter your eyes (see Fig. 1a). As you move around the object, different rays of light (or, more correctly, wave fronts) enter your eyes and you see different perspectives. Also, objects behind him are blocked from view (occluded) differently.

How the light enters your eyes Light field laboratory

Figure 1a: In real life, light reflects off objects at many different points in many different directions. Some of that light enters your eyes.

If you could generate all those light wave fronts radiating in many different directions from many different places without a physical object, you would create a true holographic recreation of that object (see Fig. 1b). This is exactly what SolidLight does. Conventional stereoscopic images can’t – all light comes from one plane. Even if each eye is presented with a slightly offset 2D point of view, they are images, not objects, not a true hologram by any means.

SolidLight Light Field Laboratory Light field laboratory

Figure 1b: Light Field Lab SolidLight recreates the same wavefronts of light that you would see in real life, which means you see objects as if they were real.

Problems that Light Field Lab has solved include scale, density, and computation. To effectively form a true holographic object, you need to generate and control the direction and amplitude of tens or hundreds of billions of wave fronts, which correspond to pixels on a 2D screen. Note that a 4K screen has 8.3 million pixels, while a next-generation 8K screen has 33 million pixels; compare that to 10 billion pixels per square meter generated by SolidLight!

It is important to understand that all wave fronts in a scene are present at the same time and that your eyes can focus on any point in the scene at any time, just like in real life. The areas you don’t focus on exhibit retinal blurring, again, just like in real life. All the attributes of light in the real world — reflection, refraction, diffraction, etc. — are faithfully reproduced. And most importantly, no special glasses, head tracking, or other accessories are required.

Light Field Lab technology exploded Light field laboratory

The SolidLight panel consists of a source (in this diagram, the photon matrix and the amplitude modulation plane are combined into one unit) and an optical PhaseGuide that together recreate wavefronts of light corresponding to real objects. Your eye cannot differentiate between real and holographic because there is no visual difference.

Layer cake technology

How does Light Field Lab do it? With technology that has already generated more than 300 patent applications. The hardware is a SolidLight Surface modular video wall with three basic components. The first layer is a silicon-phase matrix of light-emitting devices in what the company calls a “nanoparticle polymer.” Company representatives did not specify exactly what these devices are; apparently they are not LEDs and are packed with a much higher density than even a microLED panel. This layer also includes all the electronic components that provide great processing power.

The intermediate layer is an amplitude modulated plane that, as its name implies, modulates the amplitude of the light wave fronts of the photon matrix under the control of electronics. Like the photon matrix, the light modulator matrix consists of individually controllable submicron nanoparticles. This layer conditions the wave fronts for the final layer; if you were to look at the light output from the amplitude modulated plane it would be just a bunch of noise.

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