Who needs flat 3D when you can have 360 degree holograms? Researchers at the University of Arizona have created a method to produce holographic images that refresh every two seconds, and say that 30 frames per second is within reach.

Holograms have captured the imagination of scientists and science fiction writers for years,

The video above shows a pair of scientists demonstrating a holographic telepresence system. The system creates 3D holograms of two researchers located in one location to another location, with the holograms refreshing every two seconds. A few years ago the refresh time would be measured in minutes.

Another obstacle has been a lack of reusable materials to display holograms. One can't simply print out a hologram onto a piece of paper after all.

The University of Arizona team, led by optical sciences professor Nasser Peyghambarian, uses a a holographic stereographic technique and a photorefractive polymer material to record the images. A 50 Hz nanosecond pulsed laser writes the images.

The first figure below displays a hologram recorded with the 3D telepresence system. The second shows a prototype of a 12 inch by 12 inch photrefractive device.

Holographic Technology Is the Next 3DS

It's impressive technology, and a giant leap forward for holographic technology.

The full project has been detailed in a paper called "Holographic three-dimensional telepresence using large-area photorefractive polymer," available in the current edition of science journal Nature.

While the paper's lead author, Pierre Alexandre Blanche, says the team is merely doing research and not targeting the consumer market with this technology, he sees great potential for it.

Blanche expects the technology to be first used in video teleconferencing and in specialized uses such as surgeries and 3-D battle maps for the military, but he also expects it will ultimately prove irresistible to the entertainment industry.

Imagine, he said, a video game where your opponent can see behind a wall that blocks your view because of your position in the room.

"It has the potential for full immersion and virtual reality without goggles," he said.

I bet those future holographic televisions are going to cost a fortune.

UA scientist: Wraparound 3-D video within reach [Arizona Daily Star]