HOLOGRAPHICS: Combining Holograms with Interactive Computer Graphics
Among all imaging techniques that have been invented throughout the last decades, computer graphics is one of the most successful tools today. Many areas in science, entertainment, education, and engineering would be unimaginable without the aid of 2D or 3D computer graphics. The reason for this success story might be its interactivity, which is an important property that is still not provided efficiently by competing technologies – such as holography. While optical holography and digital holography are limited to presenting a non-interactive content, electroholography or computer generated holograms (CGH) facilitate the computer-based generation and display of holograms at interactive rates [2,3,29,30]. Holographic fringes can be computed by either rendering multiple perspective images, then combining them into a stereogram , or simulating the optical interference and calculating the interference pattern . Once computed, such a system dynamically visualizes the fringes with a holographic display. Since creating an electrohologram requires processing, transmitting, and storing a massive amount of data, today’s computer technology still sets the limits for electroholography. To overcome some of these performance issues, advanced reduction and compression methods have been developed that create truly interactive electroholograms. Unfortunately, most of these holograms are relatively small, low resolution, and cover only a small color spectrum. However, recent advances in consumer graphics hardware may reveal potential acceleration possibilities that can overcome these limitations . In parallel to the development of computer graphics and despite their non-interactivity, optical and digital holography have created new fields, including interferometry, copy protection, data storage, holographic optical elements, and display holograms. Especially display holography has conquered several application domains. Museum exhibits often use optical holograms because they can present 3D objects with almost no loss in visual quality. In contrast to most stereoscopic or autostereoscopic graphics displays, holographic images can provide all depth cues—perspective, binocular disparity, motion parallax, convergence, and accommodation—and theoretically can be viewed simultaneously from an unlimited number of positions. Displaying artifacts virtually removes the need to build physical replicas of the original objects. In addition, optical holograms can be used to make engineering, medical, dental, archaeological, and other recordings—for teaching, training, experimentation and documentation. Archaeologists, for example, use optical holograms to archive and investigate ancient artifacts [7,8]. Scientists can use hologram copies to perform their research without having access to the original artifacts or settling for inaccurate replicas. Optical holograms can store a massive amount of information on a thin holographic emulsion. This technology can record and reconstruct a 3D scene with almost no loss in quality. Natural color holographic silver halide emulsion with grain sizes of 8nm is today’s state-of-the-art . Today, computer graphics and raster displays offer a megapixel resolution and the interactive rendering of megabytes of data. Optical holograms, however, provide a terapixel resolution and are able to present an information content in the range of terabytes in real-time. Both are dimensions that will not be reached by computer graphics and conventional displays within the next years – even if Moore’s law proves to hold in future. Obviously, one has to make a decision between interactivity and quality when choosing a display technology for a particular application. While some applications require high visual realism and real-time presentation (that cannot be provided by computer graphics), others depend on user interaction (which is not possible with optical and digital holograms). Consequently, holography and computer graphics are being used as tools to solve individual research, engineering, and presentation problems within several domains. Up until today, however, these tools have been applied separately. The intention of the project which is summarized in this chapter is to combine both technologies to create a powerful tool for science, industry and education. This has been referred to as HoloGraphics. Several possibilities have been investigated that allow merging computer generated graphics and holograms . The goal is to combine the advantages of conventional holograms (i.e. extremely high visual quality and realism, support for all depth queues and for multiple observers at no computational cost, space efficiency, etc.) with the advantages of today’s computer graphics capabilities (i.e. interactivity, real-time rendering, simulation and animation, stereoscopic and autostereoscopic presentation, etc.). The results of these investigations are presented in this chapter.