In 1982, Blade Runner director Ridley Scott provided one of the most iconic images in science fiction cinema - an L.A. city skyline jammed with high-resolution billboards advertising a better life on the off-world colonies.
Off-world colonies aren't here yet, but those futuristic billboards are - just check out Times Square. And they may be getting a lot weirder.
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Researchers in Austria say they have developed a new kind of display technology that could result in giant billboards and jumbotron screens projecting massive 3-D images with no need for glasses. The technology actually appears to blur the line between 3-D displays and holograms in that hundreds of different images can be projected at different angles.
The start-up company TriLite, in cooperation with the Vienna University of Technology, is hyping the system as the future of outdoor digital advertising - and maybe even 3-D movies. By way of 3-D pixels (or "Trixels"), individual beams of light are projected directly into the viewer's eyes.
The 3-D pixels use a combination of mirrors and lasers to generate each beam, and TriLite says the angular resolution is so fine that the left eye is presented a different picture than the right. The display is also bright and vivid enough to be effective outdoors, even in bright sunlight, according to TriLite.
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The company's initial disclosures don't appear to address the obvious question - you're going to shoot lasers into my eyes? - and there are some caveats. To experience the 3D effect, viewers must be positioned a certain distance range from the screen, otherwise the image appears in regular 2D. Also, resolution on the current prototype is ... um ... modest: five pixels by three. (That image above is entirely conceptual.)
"We are creating a second prototype, which will display color pictures with a higher resolution," says TriLite's Jörg Reitterer in the project press materials. "But the crucial point is that the individual laser pixels work. Scaling it up to a display with many pixels is not a problem."
Another one for the Stay Tuned file. Meanwhile, the concept may remind stalwart sci-fi fans of this scene from the 2002 film Minority Report.