Holograms are moving from the realm of science fiction into that of everyday reality, bringing radical developments to communication as we know it.

Many people were first exposed to holography in the movie Star Wars when R2D2 projects Princess Leia onto a table surface. Much more recently rap artist Tupac Shakur was brought back for a “live” performance by means of holography at Coachella. These weren’t genuine 3D holograms as much as sophisticated entertainment industry showmanship, but nonetheless they gave us an impressive idea of the capacity of holograms.

 The hologram is basically a three- dimensional photograph made with the use of a laser, but its conception predates the current technology. Invented in the 1940s by a Hungarian scientist who was working in the UK, Dr. Dennis Gabor, he named the Hologram from the Greek words holo, meaning whole, and gram, meaning message. He defined the hologram as the recording of an interference pattern of light onto a photosensitive medium, but it could not be fully demonstrated until the first lasers were invented. In 1962 two scientists at the University of Michigan were then able to make the first actual holograms.

Making a hologram requires that the original object being photographed be bathed in the light of a laser beam. Then a second laser beam is bounced off the reflected light of the first. The resulting interference pattern where the two laser beams commingle is captured on film. When the developed film is illuminated by another laser beam, there appears a three-dimensional image of the original object.

 Through the 70s and 80s, artists and engineers collaborated on creating a changing array of holograms as new laser technologies were developed. Holography proved an ideal medium for the synthesis of art, science and technology. With the 90s and the rise the digital phase, holography began a major shift from analog to digital world. Since then, different systems have been developed to create holograms from digital content. We even have holographic printers that create hard-copy holograms from digital models, though the results have been limited to fairly short duration times.

The “real” version of what we first glimpsed in Star Wars is imminent. This means more convincing, higher definition projections in stereo 3D – some without glasses. Also, immersive media is employing combined virtual-reality techniques that, while not technically holographic, allow the brain to receive input experienced as immersion in an interactive 3D world. These systems are being utilized by engineers, designers, and artists to create all manner of products and artworks, some of which simulate touch for navigation and interactivity.

 It is now possible to create 3D animations, rendering them as digital data that is sent to a holographic printing facility and printed as full color digital holograms. Commercial facilities like this are spreading around the world, and artists are taking advantage of them to push the holographic envelope. Light and Space artist James Turrell, for example, and Pop Artist Ron English have made holograms to great acclaim. The other big development is the leap off the screen to virtually unlimited screen space. Holographic display eliminates the need for any real screen at all, as was brilliantly prefigured in Steven Spielberg film Minority Report. Also as illustrated in the film, future holographic displays will offer richer interactivity with more flexible content, and holographic devices will feasibly project images directly onto viewers’ retinas.

The Kiss II, 1976 (Cross-Brazier) 

 The hologram holds equally startling implications for the world of physics. Remarkably, if a hologram of an image is cut in half and then illuminated by a laser, each half will still be found to contain the entire image. If the halves are divided again successively, each part will always contain a smaller intact version of the original. Thus every part of a hologram contains all the information contained in the whole. This principle may prove key in explaining why in physics all subatomic particles at any distance from each other are able to act simultaneously. Taking these implications even further, physicist David Bohm, believes that what we perceive as objective reality does not exist, and that the universe is itself is a vast hologram. If that’s a bit too much to ponder at the moment, then you might just want to enjoy the following look at some holographic magic ranging from Star Wars to the political arena:                                                                


Minority Report:                           


Iron Man 2: