Japan kicks around holographic TV concept

Concept might happen, but not anytime soon

The World Cup has just ended, but Japan is already gearing up to bid for the 2022 competition — and one of its sales points is the promise of live holographic broadcasts of World Cup matches, using the latest homegrown technology.

Takayuki Ito, a researcher at NHK Science & Technical Research Laboratories, said as much in a presentation at the NAB in April.

In Japan, however, the bleeding-edge research in the field is being done at the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology, a government-funded lab in a Tokyo suburb. Taiichiro Kurita, the leader of the holography research team, is less optimistic that live holographic broadcasts will be a reality anytime soon.

“It might happen in 15 to 20 years,” says Kurita. “It took (pubcaster) NHK 36 years from the time it started researching high-def television until it began full-fledged HDTV broadcasts in 2000. We could be looking at a similar time frame for holographic TV.”

Kurita’s NICT team has already developed a system for real-time color holography of three-dimensional moving objects. Tiny toy trucks and other objects on a rotating stand are photographed using a lens array and a 4K2K video camera with 3840 x 2160 pixels in natural light.

Holograms are generated from these images by Fast Fourier Transform (FFT), adding in red, green and blue planes. An array of four PCs is used to calculate the holograms and three 4K2K LCDs, in concert with optical lasers, display the holograms in color.

The NICT teams plans to move up to 8K Super HV cameras in time for the CEATEC Japan digital technology show this October in Tokyo, but holographic broadcasts, Kurita notes, will require “a thousand times or more (resolution) than current high-definition systems” and scaling up will necessitate the sort of investment NICT alone cannot afford.

“Cost is the biggest problem we face right now,” he says.

Coin could come from Japan’s electronics giants, but for the time being, commented Kurita, “they don’t see the commercial potential.”

Holographic toy trucks alone won’t open their wallets, in other words. But Kurita and his team are determined to press forward. “This is a tremendously exciting area of research,” he said.

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