Touchable holograms from Japan may change the way people use virtual reality

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Dec 01, 2015 05:30 AM EST

The future has indeed arrived. Researchers at the Utsunomiya University Center for Optical Research and Education have created touchable holograms using femtosecond laser technology, NBC News reports. Femtosecond laser technology may sound familiar, as it is commonly used in LASIK and cataract surgeries. According to RP Phototonics, femtosecond lasers are lasers that emit very short optical pulses. Using mirrors and cameras, the laser is used to direct tiny points of light in specific directions to create high-resolution images, HNGN reports.

Using this type of technology, the Japanese researchers developed what they call "Fairy Lights," a system that fires high frequency laser pulses that last only one millionth of one billionth of a second. These pulses have the ability to respond to human touch, and therefore can be manipulated when they are interrupted.

International Business Times reports that according to Dr. Yoichi Ochiai of Tsukuba University, who believes that the future of this technology can aid in the progress of the entertainment, medicine, and architecture industries, "You can't actually feel the videos or pictures, and although you can project a video, you can't interact with it by touching it."

"So, if we can project an image in a three dimensional form, and if you can touch it, then you can make something where you'll think that there actually is something there," Dr. Ochiai explained.

He was joined by Kota Kumagai, Satoshi Hasegawa, and Yoshio Hayasaki from Utsunomiya University, Takayuki Hoshi from the Nagoya Institute of Technology, and Jun Rekimoto from The University of Tokyo, with whom he presented a paper called “Fairy Lights in Femtoseconds: Aerial and Volumetric Graphics Rendered by Focused Femtosecond Laser Combined with Computational Holographic Fields” at the Siggraph 2015 conference in Los Angeles back in August, The Star reports.

He added, "People's daily lives would change if we use a bigger laser in a bigger space where people can interact with it, and to see how it can be used in situations where three dimensional communication is necessary such as a construction site or in the medical field."

Reuters reports that as per Pulse Headlines, further research may eventually lead to the development of a computer keyboard made of light beamed onto the user's lap. It may also lead to the development of the ability of video chat users to experience virtually touching the person they are talking or chatting to.

Pulse Headline further reports that the technology used to create touchable holograms have previously been demonstrated, but the laser used was harmful to humans. Dr. Ochiai and his team's paper may be viewed at

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