The pioneers of holography (Gabor, Leith, Upatnieks, and Denisyuk) predicted very early that the ultimate 3D display will be based on this technique. This conviction was rooted in the fact that holography is the only approach that can render all optical cues interpreted by the human visual system. Holographic 3D displays have been a dream chased after for many years, facing challenges on all fronts: Computation, transmission, and rendering. With numbers such as 6.6 × 1015 flops required for calculations, 3 × 1015 b/s data rates, and 1.6 × 1012 phase pixels, the task has been daunting.

In a new review paper published in Light: Science & Application, Prof. Blanche from the University of Arizona is reviewing the recent accomplishments made in the field of holographic 3D ; specifically, the  in  and  demonstrating that computer-generated holograms approach  processing. A section of the paper also discusses the problem of data transmission that can arguably be solved using clever compression algorithms and optical fiber transmission lines. Finally, it introduces the last obstacle to holographic 3D display, which is is the rendering hardware. However, there is no further mystery. With larger and faster spatial light modulators (SLMs), holographic projection systems are constantly improving. The pixel count on  on silicon (LCoS) as well as micro electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) phase displays is increasing by the millions, and new photonic integrated circuit phased arrays are achieving real progress. It is only a matter of time for these systems to leave the laboratory and enter the consumer world.

Holography is still considered as the ultimate technology that will enable rendering of all the optical cues needed for the human visual system to see projected images in 3D. All other technologies, such as (auto) stereoscopy, light-field, or volumetric displays suffer from trade-offs that limit 3D rendering. Nonetheless, these technologies will likely prove to be stepping stones leading to better visual comfort until holographic displays are achieved.

Some of the doors that were preventing holographic television from being made possible only a few years ago have already been unlocked. The fast computation of 3D holograms to properly control occlusions and parallax is now within reach as is a solution to the problem of data transmission. The exact architecture of the network (thick or lean client) is unclear, but higher compression rates and ever faster telecommunication infrastructures supporting the Internet mobile communications make streaming the data for a holographic television feasible, if not yet accessible.

However, some challenges remain to be solved. The two main obstacles at the time this manuscript was written are the computation of photorealistic 3D holograms in a reasonable amount of time, and a suitable electronic device for the reproduction of large holographic 3D images with high resolution.

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More information: Pierre-Alexandre Blanche, Holography, and the future of 3D display, Light: Advanced Manufacturing (2021). DOI: 10.37188/lam.2021.028 

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