Researchers Go Beyond Holograms to 3D-Print Images in the Air

Posted by Editor On January - 25 - 2018

Researchers Go Beyond Holograms to 3D-Print Images in the Air

A 3D image of a BYU student from research conducted to create a projection on dust particles in air. Photo by Dan Smalley Lab, Brigham Young University via AP.

Like a scene out of Star Wars, researchers at Brigham Young University have managed to project a moving image, viewable from all angles, by projecting laser light onto dust particles in the air.

According to a study in the journal Nature published on Jan. 24, the results are far more sophisticated than holograms, which despite their apparent three-dimensionality, are actually two-dimensional and only viewable from a singular location. Daniel Smalley, the lead author of the study, said the new technology is “printing something in space, just erasing it very quickly.”

Despite the similarities to the 3D-projected image of Princess Leia from the original Star Wars film, Smalley was inspired by a scene from Iron Man where Tony Stark is using a holographic workspace to perform tasks. According to Smalley, under the logistics of holograms, such a scene would be impossible as Stark’s hand would be disrupting the projection.

According to the AP story reporting on the study, “Going from holograms to this type of technology — technically called volumetric display — is like shifting from a two-dimensional printer to a three-dimensional printer.”

For more on this story, see the report by AP at