JAPANESE

Next Generation Research Incubator

Next-generation three-dimensional display and measurement

Advances in three-dimensional image display and measurement techniques have applications in multiple fields, from medicine to entertainment

Technologies based on three-dimensional (3D) image displays and holography may conjure up visions of science fiction, but the Next-generation Three-dimensional Display and Measurement program aims to make these advanced tools part of everyday life.

Holograms are true three-dimensional images, which allow the viewer to see an object from all angles. They are created using coherent light sources such as lasers, which can store the complex light interference patterns required to accurately recreate an entire 3D object in full color. However, the main drawback of holography is the immense computational burden of producing high-quality holograms, not to mention creating moving 3D video images in real time.

Leader of the 3D program, Tomoyoshi Shimobaba says his team is developing ultrafast algorithms and dedicated computers for holography to create the world’s first real-time holographic 3D display system.

“These dedicated computers will have a computational speed three or four orders of magnitude higher than the household computers of today,” adds Tomoyoshi Ito, advisor on the project.

“Based on this dedicated technology, we will investigate holographic projection, digital holographic microscopy and ultrarapid holographic imaging techniques.”

Among the team’s recent successes is a small, inexpensive, zoomable holographic projection system, suitable for use in classrooms, medical applications and entertainment products. Shimobaba’s team refined mathematical image manipulation techniques to ensure a high-resolution, non-grainy holographic image even when zooming in and out. The researchers are further developing algorithms that can reduce ‘speckle noise’ in reconstructed images to avoid degradation in image quality.

One image, multiple views

Another aim is to reconstruct large 3D images with a large viewing angle — something that is difficult to realize using current technologies.

“We are also developing accurate holographic measurement systems, which will be invaluable in medical science because they allow researchers to image and measure samples in 3D alongside visualizing moving phenomena in real time,” explains Shimobaba.

In another exciting field of research, the team is exploring a form of 3D image creation called volumetric displays — the difference being that, while holograms can only be seen clearly by one person at a time, volumetric displays can be viewed by several people from different viewpoints. And, in an even more challenging concept, they are trying to create multi-viewpoint images with plural information appearing in specific directions. In other words, one person standing at one place will see one piece of information, while another standing somewhere else will see completely different information.

“Our volumetric display simultaneously provides several observers with different information,” explains project researcher Ryuji Hirayama. “This very exciting feature is quite new, and we are considering new applications for using it, such as developing multi-language signage for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020,” he says. Such 3D displays may benefit from advanced aerial projection techniques, also under development by Shimobaba’s team.

“Networking is the key to our success,” says Shimobaba. “Many students who have graduated from our laboratory move on to research in academia or for private companies, and we continue working with them. In this way, we expand our project and build fruitful working relationships across academia and industry.”