Military Develops Real Holographic 3D Display
Posted on: 06/19/2012 11:55 PM

DARPA, the famed advanced research agency that creates all the Armed Forces' craziest toys, has just finished developing new 3D holographic technology. It will be distributed to the Air Force and Army initially, in order to assist military leaders in battle planning and design.

Through a five-year program called the Urban Phototonic Sandtable Display (UPSD), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) created a real-time, 360-degree, 3D holographic display to help military commanders and mission planners better visualize and plan battles. From the sounds of it, this new technology is a serious step in the world of 3D and holograms, bringing all those cool displays from James Cameron's Avatar to life.

This is a video of a "low tech" pervious version of the technology. We can't find any videos or pictures of the UPSD, but the new display will look similar to this, except interactive and in real time.

These new displays will make it much easier for military battle planners to visualize conditions in urban areas. 3D glasses are not needed to use the technology, which places planners in front of a large-format, interactive 3D display that enables full visual-depth capability up to 12 inches. It allows up to 20 participants to simultaneously view holographic images that can be manipulated in various ways on the screen in real time. This display isn't small, either. Its 6 feet long, according to sources. The UPSD also produces two-dimensional printouts of the 3D imagery rendered onscreen so troops can use them in the field as guides.

The UPSD was contracted through hologram maker Zebra Imaging of Austin Texas. The technology is intended to replace the military's current most-advanced technology for this activity, which really isn't advanced at all. Just two-dimensional HD flat-panel displays.

UPSD is a complement to ongoing work DARPA has been doing to leverage 3D in advanced military technologies; particularly for planning missions in complex terrain. As we already know, the military has had incredibly detailed 3D imaging for a long time (the new Google and Apple 3D maps use some old military technology), but DARPA recently demonstrated some new 3D mapping technology through its High Altitude LIDAR Operations Experiment (HALOE) project. This project collects high-resolution 3D data faster than traditional methods, giving U.S. military forces in Afghanistan access to plan military activities on the fly.

Military planners can use UPSD's 3D display in conjunction with technology from the HALOE project to an insanely detailed view of mission operations. And as you know, what is military-only now will be available to civilians at some point too. I can't wait!

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