Sunday, April 8, 2012

The A to Z of Fiction to Reality: the Holographic Interface

Holography may be one of the few scientific developments that we see no real glimpse of in fiction before it happened. I think it's easy to understand why that is. Maybe not. At any rate, holography was introduced to the world in the early 70s when Dennis Gabor won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his development of the holographic method. The techniques involved in this go all the way back to the 1940s, but it wasn't until the invention of the laser, in the 60s, that what we know of as holograms were developed.

Writers may not have seen the hologram coming, but they certainly saw where it could go well before science did. I don't know about you, but I remember the little hologram trinket craze of the late 70s and early 80s. At the time, that seemed to be all we were going to get from holographic technology. Things like
which are pretty cool but don't really do anything.

However, in 1983, we were introduced to

and the ideas of what holography could do began to change. Okay, it probably wasn't just Return of the Jedi that did that, but it certainly sparked the imagination of a lot of kids that would grow up and advance the field.

Of course, we also had Quantum Leap in the late 80s with its holographic sidekick played by Dean Stockwell. And there was the lesser known (because of not being very successful) show Automan in 1983

with the first holographic super hero. Not to mention Red Dwarf with its hard light hologram character.

But all of that is beside the point, because I want to get to something real. This:
That's an image from Minority Report. At the time, that thing that Tom Cruise is doing with that holographic screen was purely fictional. Here's another image:

And it was purely fictional in the sense that no one had thought of it before. At least, not like this. Spielberg did something interesting, though. He wanted a movie that looked and felt real, so, instead of just making a bunch of stuff up, in 1999, he invited... well, he invited some experts to help him devise a plausible future reality. The holographic interface he used in the movie was one of the ideas they came up with, and it has since become a reality. Well, maybe not quite to the extent that it's used in the movie, but it's on its way.

In fact, when Microsoft was developing this technology for the Xbox 360, they hired engineers to "create Minority Report inspired user interfaces." I don't know how you can get a more direct link from fiction to reality than that. It's really one of those "Hey, that's cool! Let's make one of those for real!" kind of things.


  1. Let's not forget Star Trek's Holodeck, either.
    The technology behind the XBox is really amazing when you stop to think about it. We saw signs of that in Total Recall when Sharon Stone is playing tennis.
    And at least we don't have to worry about throwing controllers at our big screen TVs anymore. I always thought that was an accident just waiting to happen.

  2. Until I get my holo tv I consider the technology doa.


  3. Andrew, you've got an awesome theme going on for this challenge. I'm jealous.

    That said, I loved the Death Star holograph when I was little. Always made my jaw drop open, "Wow!" They used holographic images for the mapping in Avatar, as well. Very futuristic. ;)

  4. I remember being blown away as a kid by the hologram image of Leia in Star Wars when it first hit the big screen. I don't think I'd ever thought a 3D image was possible before that. I'm also easily impressed by gadgetry. :)

  5. I thought the holo technology in Minority Report was amazing. And I think it's even more amazing that diction is influencing it should. Great post.

  6. I love how fiction can influence reality. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs this month.

  7. The late Carl Sagan said in his address to future Martians prior to his death that science-fiction and actual science are in a kind of dance that circles around each other.

  8. I love minority report--and quantum leap. And holograms are cool. i think they're going to be the standard of the future

    Great A-Z post!

  9. I'm just glad Tom Cruise isn't a hologram. Because that would make him unpunchable.

  10. Extra points for mentioning Quantum Leap :-)

  11. Alex: yeah, but the holodeck isn't something we're anywhere near to achieving. VR on the other hand... I think that's just around the corner.

    Rusty: Well, there are 3D TVs available.

    Alyssia: I wanted to mention Avatar, but I couldn't find a good image, so I left it out.

    L.G.: I loved that they used holograms as communication devices instead of screens.

    S.L.: Oh, just wait till I get to M!

    Sharkbytes: Thanks for stopping by!

    Michael: That certainly used to be true. I'm not sure it still is, but it used to be.

    nutschell: I'm not sure about holograms in and of themselves, but 3D and VR for sure.

    ABftS: LOL It would also make him taller. Or could. That would be unfortunate.

    Sarah P: Oh, man, I used to love Quantum Leap!

  12. i love holograms been trying to make them for years.
    .......nearly succseaded

  13. Anonymous: I'm not quite certain what you mean by that, but good luck with it! Thanks for stopping in.