Holographic technology is frequently shown in science fiction and superhero movies (Tony Stark’s in-helmet displays are all holograms). Our real-life capabilities have historically been far more modest, even though the first science fiction author to write about the concept, Jules Verne, published his The Carpathian Castle in 1893. Now, an Australian company has constructed the world’s first multi-user holographic table, capable of tracking the eye positions and viewing angles of multiple people simultaneously and updating its models to correspond to what they’re seeing from their specific angles.
The company, Euclideon, has only shown a prototype for now, but plans to have the final version up for sale in 2018. The problem with existing hologram tables is that they don’t change their perspectives when multiple users look at them. There’ve been a handful of devices that tackled this issue before, but they’ve all used various tricks to do it and have had some significant limitations. According to NewAtlas, the Euclideon tech demo is notably different and significantly more advanced.
One substantial reason to take what we’re about to say with an enormous grain of salt is that Euclideon made headlines in 2011 for hyping the so-called Unlimited Detail engine, a supposed gaming engine that would change the world by rendering gorgeous worlds with no fancy GPU requirements… with the minor caveat that their engine couldn’t handle physics, procedural lightning, or moving objects. It also couldn’t really do anti-aliasing. Amazingly, these minor issues killed any interest anyone had in the Unlimited Detail engine, though Euclideon spent so long pumping the thing people were debunking it in 2011 and then debunking it againin 2016. Commercial games that use UD? Zero.
In this case, Euclideon is claiming to have married per-eye motion tracking with a pair of glasses that provide polarized lenses and are used to interface with the motion trackers. Positional data on each user is fed into one of four motion trackers positioned around the table. Based on this, the table builds a correctly projected image for each eye. Up to eight separate images can be created per system, which means four different people can see the same side of an image, from the same perspective, while standing in different positions around the table.
The table uses the Unlimited Detail engine, and the company CEO, Bruce Dell, believes it could help revive both the fortunes of that product as well as video arcades. Depending on how simple the games are, that’s potentially possible. But again, the Unlimited Detail engine lacks a great deal of what game developers expect.
Still, there are potential non-gaming applications that would make great use of this capability. Any collaborative design process could benefit, and the ability to see 3D models at this kind of scale could be useful in architecture, town planning, and a variety of other use cases. Euclideon’s trials and travails with the UD engine to-date don’t exactly inspire confidence, but the company still may have made a genuine breakthrough with this technology. Color us cautiously — very cautiously — optimistic. The company is targeting a $ 50K price when it does go on sale, however, so don’t expect to see these in the living room just yet.