Anyone who is anyone remembers the iconic beginning to the Star Wars series, where a certain hologram propels the epic narrative forward.
“Help me Obi Wan Kanobi, you’re my only hope” implores Princess Leia, her entire figure and facial expressions visible thanks to the futuristic holographic device her desperate message is recorded on.
A scene which has gained even more weight thanks to the recent Rogue One film, Leia’s message is impressive not only for narrative reasons.
The message is a vision into our own future, to a time when we send holograms instead of texts.
And that time is far closer than you think.
Star Wars-style hologram messages are on the horizon thanks to the work of researchers at the Australian National University. The team has created a technology that can produce small holograms, almost exactly like in Star Wars.
At the core of this innovation is a special material the team developed to produce actual holograms. 500 times finer than a strand of hair, the material is made up of millions of silicon pillar that can manipulate light in complex ways. The material is so lightweight and thin it could easily be placed in a phone or any other device.
Compared to a photo or computer screen, explains the researchers, holograms are far more sophisticated. The former just reproduces a fraction of information in a 2D format. The latter, on the other hand, can store literally all the information stored in light that the human eye needs to see a 3D image.
The connection made between this new technology and Star Wars wasn’t just our doing, either. One of the lead researchers on the project was actually inspired by Star Wars when developing the new material.
“As a child I learned about the concept of holographic imaging from the Star Wars movies,” said PhD student Lei Wang. Now, in adulthood, he’s making holograms a reality.
But being able to send hologram-messages of yourself to friends isn’t the only application for this innovative technology.
Wang has pointed out how the material he and his team have made to create holograms is incredibly versatile. Whereas computer screens or camera lenses are large and bulky, the new material offers a lightweight and inexpensive alternative. Wang believes the material could be used to build “ultra-thin and light-weight optical devices for cameras and satellites.” Spacecrafts could also use the material for their own imaging systems, linking the new technology to Star Wars even further.
For a better visual of the technology and to hear it explained by the researchers themselves, check out the video below.