Holograms have been a dream ever since Princess Leia appeared as a floating image in Star Wars. Finally it looks like we're near to reaching real holograms thanks to the Aerial Burton plasma laser display.

Aerial Burton has used a plasma laser to float a 3D image in mid-air. At the moment it's very rudimentary stuff but it shows that light can be viewed without the need to bounce it off a surface. Until now any "hologram" examples have required glass, smoke or water to bounce light from. The Aerial Burton breakthrough creates light in the air.

So how is this possible without light bouncing back towards our eyes? The technology uses a 1kW infrared pulse laser which is focused on direct points in the air via a 3D scanner. At this stage the molecules in the air are ionised to create plasma. Since these plasma bursts only last a short while the laser needs to pulse in order to keep the area lit.

While this means basic single colour images right now it's an important step in the right direction. Enhanced resolution could mean a future where TVs are replaced by hidden laser projectors that create an image on thin air.

But for now Aerial Burton is focusing on using the holographic projector to create signs for emergency situations. The kit can be car mounted so could prove useful for setting up temporary signs. But what the future holds for this technology remains to be seen.

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