What are 3D holograms?

Anyone who went to see the second film in the Star Wars saga, “Attack of the Clones”, in the cinema in 2002 would hardly have thought at the time that just under 20 years later parts of the film would already be reality. However, there is no Millennium Falcon flying through our world at the moment and nothing more is known about the central world of the Galactic Republic, but another important element of the movie is already part of our present and will play a role in the near and distant future: holographic projections.

The question now arises, what is a 3D hologram and how does it work?

A 3D hologram can be considered as a three-dimensional holographic projection that can move freely in space depending on its structure. The special feature here, which clearly distinguishes this type of presentation from 3D films or virtual reality, is that no aids are required for the person viewing and perceiving the holograms. This way, all holography can always be viewed without 3D glasses or the like.

History of holography

However, it took some time before the first 3D hologram entered the world, so let’s turn back the clock a bit and look at the beginning of the history of the discovery of holography.

The baby steps in the field of holographic projections were achieved by the British-Hungarian engineer Dennis Gábor in 1947. However, his intention was not to represent objects three-dimensionally in space, but simply to improve the resolution of microscopes. He probably never imagined that his work would one day have a major impact on the advertising industry.

The activity that was to make him world-famous and eventually win him the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 for the discovery of holography was as follows: He succeeded in separating the microscopic image by superimposing the light wave emanating from the object and a second reference wave, which led to the first hologram ever. However, since he was not able to make any real progress in a convincing representation of the holograms in the following four years, he let the work on the holographic projections rest for the time being.

Revival of holography

So the story of holography could well have ended here, but the two US scientists Juris Upatnieks and Emmeth Leith resumed the research on Gábor’s previous results. Due to the work of the two researchers and the invention of the laser in 1960, holography experienced a revival.

In March 1964, at a meeting of the Optical Society in Washington DC, the two US Americans presented the first hologram in a high quality – of a model railroad. At that time, the participants could not believe that this train was not three-dimensional in space. This event marked the first step towards greater social interest in holography, laying the foundation for its use in everyday life as we know it today.

How is holography displayed?

Not all holography is the same, there are significant differences here. Every one of us encounters it constantly in everyday life, when we pay with banknotes or take a look at our identity card or passport. As a security feature to make them counterfeit-proof, they are provided with so-called embossing holograms. These holograms are responsible for the highest market share of holographic products worldwide, as they find a place not only on banknotes, but also as stickers and labels on many products. The production of these holograms is significantly easier and less costly, compared to a 3D hologram.

These 3D holograms attract even more attention, which is why these holographic projections regularly cause great amazement and enthusiasm among the people looking at them. Nevertheless, these works of art are also not all created in the same way, but differ in some aspects.

Description of further holograms

An example of these creations are display holograms, which, as the name suggests, are presented by means of a display, presenting a high spatial depth and effect. In this method, the holograms are illuminated from the back.

From the other side, i.e. from the front, the reflection holograms are illuminated. These can be placed on walls like a large picture and thus convince the viewer with a high spatial effect.

The supreme discipline of holograms, however, are 3D holograms, which attract the most attention. These can be presented through various projectors, such as with a pyramid, or with the Holocircle, which can display holograms with incredible precision thanks to its fast-moving rotor blades studded with LED lights. Because the rotors turn around themselves a full 600 times per minute, this movement is not visible to the human eye, so that holographic, free-floating movements in space then become possible.

How does classic advertising work?

In medieval and early modern times, unsurprisingly, holographic projections did not yet exist, so the barker was still responsible for advertising, until this was replaced by the products of Johannes Gutenberg’s invention. Modern letterpress printing was created by the printing press and movable metal letters, which is why barkers increasingly faded into obscurity.

Merchants were now able to inform their customers themselves of the products they had to offer by means of small pieces of paper, so that verbal advertising of their own articles was no longer absolutely necessary.

The various methods of promoting the company’s own products continued to develop via newspaper advertisements, postings on advertising pillars, advertising on the radio, on television and finally on the internet. In this context, it is important for advertisers to stand out from the crowd in order to offer existing and potential customers something special in the crowded advertising jungle. For example, more and more elaborate commercials are being shot for television, which can hardly be compared with the advertising from the early days of the screen, when it was all about a simple presentation of the goods.

However, if you take a look at Germany’s pedestrian zones of today, they hardly differ from the shopping streets of the 90s. The shop windows are still equipped with classic mannequins, which are dressed in the clothes of the season, eye-catchers are usually large “SALE” posters, which differ from each other in the presentation usually only with the percentage figures, 3D holograms can still hardly be found.

3D holograms – the new star of the advertising media

In a world where online shopping is becoming increasingly dominant and brick-and-mortar retailers are having to fight more and more for customers, reaching out to prospects has never been more important. Germany still has a lot of catching up to do in this respect, if you take a look at the bigger picture and take a closer look at other countries. Times Square in New York City, Picadilly Circus in London or the buildings at Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo have been considered pioneers of modern advertising for years. Advertising can be presented more flexibly than ever before on the LED walls in these cities, because the content displayed can be changed flexibly according to the needs of the advertisers.

Big, bright and colorful lights captivate people, the colorful and changing sequences inspire.

The cherry on the cake in this area, however, are 3D holograms, which also serve as advertising media just like LED walls or shop window posters, but bring with them a decisive difference: they address one dimension more than the other media can. A dimension that customers and potential prospects in the field of advertising have never come into contact with before.

How and where can holograms be used?

3D holograms make it possible to present products in a more innovative way than ever before. On a smartphone, the new sports shoe is only as large as the phone’s screen allows, and on posters it can be displayed in a large format, but it is not possible to create a realistic, detailed impression of the item for the person viewing it. Thanks to 3D holograms, these products can now be displayed three-dimensionally and are the ultimate eye-catcher, if only because of the mostly unknown form of display.

Depending on the type of product presented, the emotions of the viewers are also reached. For example, entire manufacturing processes, such as for a sports car, can be shown so vividly in the display window of a car dealership.

Places of use for holographic projections

The places where 3D holograms are used are just as diverse as the displayed content itself. Thus, holograms are now already a welcome guest in some museums, at trade fairs, in showrooms or even in the first supermarkets. But the use of a hologram also caused a stir at events such as one of the world’s most famous music festivals, “Coachella” in California. In 2012, for example, the rapper Snoop Dogg was able to perform and interact on stage with the musician 2Pac, who had already died in the last millennium, so that the fans present were offered a performance that they probably never expected.

But the 3D holograms are also becoming more and more popular in our own homes. Listen to Elvis Presley’s music while the King performs his greatest hits in your living room? Check! Smoke a cigar while Marlon Brando relaxes next to you, also taking a drag on his? No problem at all. Or should a real-sized Diego Maradona let one opponent after the other step out at your home? This can also be arranged!

What effects does the use of holography bring?

Due to their attention-grabbing look, 3D holograms jump directly into the eyes of not only those interested in the displayed content. They inspire because this kind of representation is mostly unknown and not many viewers have come into contact with it yet. If the hologram is a video, significantly longer dwell times can be achieved in front of your own shop window, trade fair stand or at the POS. Complex content, however, can also be presented more easily through vivid illustrations. In addition, a holographic projection creates a special memory value through the striking illustration.

How is the desired 3D hologram designed, created and implemented?

It sounds almost too good to be true, from the desire of your own hologram to the final implementation, almost anything is possible. If a three-dimensional product such as a beverage bottle is already available, it is scanned in using a special process and processed on the computer in the desired format. For example, the bottle could rotate around its own axis, change color, or become larger and smaller in a certain time sequence to attract even more attention.

But two-dimensional objects, such as a company logo, can also be converted into holograms.

Finally, for the final display of the 3D holograms, it needs a source that can display the holograms, such as the Holocircle. This only needs to be connected to a power source at the desired location, and enthusiastic faces are not long in coming.

What could the holography of the future look like?

In many futuristic films, conversations or even meetings of several people take place without their real presence, but simply with the presence of their personal holograms. This is still a bit of a pipe dream, but could one day also correspond to reality. This would then require at least three cameras that would record one person. In order for this to then become visible to other participants, a device for projection would be needed at the second location, such as the Holocircle.

However, holographic projections such as these would not take place just for fun, but bring with them many useful aspects. In an increasingly globalized world, where international connections in the fields of business, politics and many other areas are growing very strongly, it is not possible to arrange face-to-face meetings with different partners every day. Since in telephone conversations as well as in video calls the corresponding facial expressions and gestures cannot be conveyed as well as when the participants of a conversation have the interlocutor in front of them in the corresponding form, holographic projections could find a daily use especially in the mentioned sectors. So the question “What is a hologram?” will be asked by fewer and fewer people in a few years’ time, because by then they could already be integrated into our lives.

In the long term, however, a playful component could enrich the living rooms at home or even the shop windows in the city centers. As is already common with TVs, smartphones or even game consoles, these can be controlled via gestures. Individual movements can be detected incredibly precisely via Kinect control or even infrared waves, which is why holograms would then also be controllable with the user’s own hands. Holography will develop more and more and gradually it will play more and more a part in our lives.