Current display technology has relied on flat, 2D screens that cannot truly convey the third dimension of visual information: depth. In contrast to conventional visualization that is primarily based on 2D flat screens, the volumetric 3D display possesses a true 3D display volume, and places physically each 3D voxel in displayed 3D images at the true 3D (x,y,z) spatial position. Each voxel, analogous to a pixel in a 2D image, emits light from that position to form a real 3D image in the eyes of the viewers. Such true volumetric 3D display technology provides both physiological (accommodation, convergence, binocular disparity, and motion parallax) and psychological (image size, linear perspective, shading, brightness, etc.) depth cues to human visual systems to help in the perception of 3D objects. In a volumetric 3D display, viewers can watch the displayed 3D images from a completely 360° view without using any special eyewear. The volumetric 3D display techniques may lead to a quantum leap in information display technology and can dramatically change the ways humans interact with computers, which can lead to significant improvements in the efficiency of learning and knowledge management processes.
Within a block of glass, a large amount of tiny dots of voxels are created by using a recently available machining technique called laser subsurface engraving (LSE). The LSE is able to produce tiny physical crack points (as small as 0.05 mm in diameter) at any (x,y,z) location within the cube of transparent material. The crack dots, when illuminated by a light source, scatter the light around and form visible voxels within the 3D volume. The locations of these tiny voxels are strategically determined such that each can be illuminated by a light ray from a high-resolution digital mirror device (DMD) light engine. The distribution of these voxels occupies the full display volume within the static 3D glass screen. This design eliminates any moving screen seen in previous approaches, so there is no image jitter, and has an inherent parallel mechanism for 3D voxel addressing. High spatial resolution is possible with a full color display being easy to implement. The system is low-cost and low-maintenance.
This work was done by Jason Geng of Xigen LLC for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-15606-1