Have you ever wanted to play a game of 3D chess just as Chewbacca and R2-D2 did in Star Wars? Soon, perhaps you can, and in your very own living room without breaking the bank with expensive laser technology. In fact, all you may need is a simple lamp or flashlight, thanks to new research by Rajesh Menon and the associated team at the University of Utah.

Source: Dan Dixson/University of Utah

In a paper published by Menon alongside Mohammed, Meem, and Wan in Nature titled “Full-color, large area, transmissive holograms enabled by multi-level diffractive optics”, the team outlines their solution to create low-cost, full-color holograms that can be seen in normal white light and without expensive equipment.

Their inspiration came from the reflective properties of a butterfly’s wings which gave insight into a longstanding issue in holographic technology–inefficient usage of light that results in loss.

With their insights, holograms can be a near-future and cost effective possibility for industries that range from entertainment to advertising to security. Plus, these holograms won’t be the hazy, dim creations of years past. Instead, they offer lifelike, full-color renditions that are visible with only the use of a flashlight and easily mass-produced plastic discs, similar to DVDs, Blu-Rays, and CDs.

Past holographic technology required lasers to display the images and a laser for each color to be displayed, making the tech infeasible for most purposes due to the cost prohibitive nature of the process of both capturing and displaying the images.

However, studies surrounding the way an iridescent butterfly’s wings shine a brilliant blue by reflecting all light back at angles that allow some of the waves to cancel one another out through interference and display the brilliant hue at any angle have offered insight into a new method of creating holographic images that harnesses this same method to create true-color 3D and 2D holograms.

The team uses highly sophisticated computer algorithms to generate the holograms using 3D nanostructures that can then be transferred to normal, everyday plastics, making them very cheap to reproduce.

This is great news for the security industry since the 2D rainbow holograms we see on credit cards and drivers licenses could be replaced with a cheap alternative that is more complex and more difficult to reproduce.

Menon sees further uses for their technology, barring just a few engineering issues. He and his team already have their eyes on moving 3D holograms that use their methods which can be implemented for 3D movies that require no glasses, amusement rides, advertising, and, of course, Star Wars-esque chess.

Image result for Rajesh Menon university of utah
Source: unews.utah.edu

“Imagine going through a ride and you want a monster to jump out. This is a way to do that with much richer color, with higher efficiency, and in a much more ubiquitous manner because it's so cheap,” Menon says.

The team sees these possibilities as being very real within the next two years, and Menon has already founded a company called PointSpectrum to capitalize on this breakthrough.  

Sci-fi nerds better start clearing a space in their living room now, because all of your friends are going to want to see this.

Can you think of any other novel uses for budget-friendly, full-color holograms? Let us know in the comments below!