Australian company Euclideon has built a working prototype of what it calls the world’s first true multi-user hologram table. Up to four people can walk around a holographic image and interact with it wearing only a small set of glasses – a far cry from bulky AR headgear. It’s set to go on sale in 2018.
The idea of the hologram table has been a staple of sci-fi for decades. Indeed, hologram tables themselves have popped up here and there, but never really caught on. That’s mainly because in the past, they just haven’t worked like people hoped.
The problem is this: a hologram is a computer-generated stereo image, much like the kind of image you see when you watch a 3-D movie. But if you’ve got a group of people standing around a table, looking at the same image, they’ll all see the same perspective on it, and the image won’t change as they move around. It breaks the illusion.
The same is true of Tupac-style glass projection “holograms,” spinning fan style “holograms” and mist projection systems – when you walk around them, or have multiple people looking at them, they break, so they’ve never taken off as a boardroom presentation device or gaming platform.
But it seems we’re about to see a new perspective on holograms – eight perspectives, really – from an Australian company that believes it’s cracked the code and designed the world’s first true multi-user hologram table that’s ready for prime time.
Euclideon, based just outside Brisbane, Australia, is better known for its Unlimited Detail (UD) 3D graphics processing engine, which caused quite a kerfuffle in the gaming community when it was first showcased in 2011. The UD engine could render absolutely gigantic virtual spaces in minute detail, allowing a viewer to move through a colossal 3D environment using low-end computers and no special graphics cards. It wasn’t so hot when it came to physics, procedural lighting or objects that changed when they moved, so UD never took off as a large scale gaming engine.
It remains, however, an outstanding engine for geospatial imaging, presenting laser-scanned or hand-designed 3D maps of entire cities that can be zoomed in on to the smallest details and manipulated.
And now, the UD engine underpins Euclideon’s remarkable multi-user hologram tables, which can give up to four users at a time the experience of looking at a hologram that they can walk around and interact with, without the need for bulky augmented reality (AR) headgear.
This is an important point. Euclideon’s table only requires users to use a small pair of motion-trackable sunglasses, very similar to a pair of 3D glasses, making them much more relevant in a social meeting or gaming situation than the large helmets and screens you currently need for AR.