Imagine being able to walk next to and talk with the person who just called you on your mobile phone without them actually being there. Sound like science fiction? Once upon a time it was, but telecommunications giant IBM is predicting that in 2015 such telephone systems that use holographic images will exist.
How it works
IBM is actually working on holographic phones right now, and has been since 2010. They predict a working prototype will be available in 2015. Depending on testing, price and a number of other factors, holographic phones could be available to consumers not long after that.
Holographic phones work by sending a three dimensional image to the receiver, whether it is a mobile phone or fixed device, which is then projected from the phone. It gives the impression of the person you are talking to being right there with you, and vice versa.
Surely it’s just science fiction?
According to IBM’s Paul Bloom, holographic phones are much closer to reality than we realise. In an interview he said: “We see 3D technology moving into the cell phone, which will have the ability to transmit information off the cell phone to create a 3D hologram, projecting the hologram on any surface in life size”.
Bloom said IBM was working on the mobile phone holographic image concept image in its labs now. The main obstacle to overcome is to make the cameras that capture the 3D image small enough to fit into a mobile phone. Software also needs to be written to project these images from a phone.
Other than being a pretty cool technical innovation that surpasses anything before it, such as smartphone apps and customised ringtones, three dimensional images can be an important tool. Bloom gave one example in which a worker could project a holographic image – enlarged if necessary – of an item that required repair. The technician could then literally “walk” through it to detect problems. “The repair person could go inside the device instead of looking it up in a manual,” he said.
Doctors and medical specialists also see the potential of holographic technology that could potentially allow them to make a diagnosis from the other side of the world, or to even carry out surgery remotely. In reality, the images are likely to start off small and as technology improves, the images will be able to get bigger. Walking next to a holographic image of the person you are talking to on the phone may take a little longer to perfect.
3D is already in use
What gives researchers confidence in holographic images is the fact that similar technology is already in use. 3D has come a long way in recent years to the point where movies are regularly screened in this format to provide an enhanced cinematic experience.
3D televisions are also becoming more popular and the technology is rapidly evolving, meaning holographic images and three dimensional video calling are no longer limited to just Hollywood.