Lasers used to create 3D, midair displays

Japanese researchers have harnessed the power of lasers to create 3D images and text that float in midair. Although pretty rudimentary in form at the moment with images formed out of arrays of dots, the technology has potential to play a role in everything from wayfaring to attention-grabbing DOOH advertising campaigns.

Two such technologies are being developed in Japan at the moment; a company called Burton Inc. is working on a ‘true 3D display’ called Aerial Burton and several Japanese universities are collectively developing a ‘Fairy Lights’ display system. Both are laser-induced plasma displays that work by ionising air molecules to create glowing points of light.

The difference between the projects is that the voxels (the brightly glowing pixels in the 3D space) are not safe to touch in the current prototype of Aerial Burton as the amount of energy involved in the plasma bursts could burn skin.

However the Fairy Lights system being developed by researchers from the University of Tsukuba, Utsunomiya University, Nagoya Institute of Technology, and the University of Tokyo uses femtosecond lasers. These pulse in one millionth of one billionth of one second and are therefore safe to the touch.

Whether these midair displays will deliver anything worthy of competing with technology being developed using holographics and augmented reality remains to be seen.