Help Me Obi: Is this the first true 3D video?

Art installation Help Me Obi plays projected video that viewers can walk around and watch from any position.

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Helson Jackets

Video that can be viewed from any direction is something of a white whale. Although holograms are now being used in an increasing number of situations -- from assistance at airports to stage shows -- they are 2D affairs that can only be properly viewed from a certain angle.

An artwork, however, while not holographic, has broken through into that third dimension, showing moving images that can be viewed from any direction, looking exactly the same no matter where you stand.

The artwork, called Help Me Obi -- named, of course, for the famous scene in "Star Wars" -- is the creation of Scotland-based artists Chris Helson and Sarah Jackets, who have been working on the project for about eight years.

"It's not actually a 3D hologram, we use the term holographic to help to describe it because there is nothing else like it, it's a device that produces 360 degree video objects. The machine creates 360-degree moving video objects apparently floating in space. The viewer is able to walk around the machine and see the video object from any position," Helson, who trained in aircraft engineering before studying art and working as an artist for the past two decades, explained.

"It exploits persistence of vision, video projection and a number of engineering inventions. Beyond that, we can't really tell you much more because it's going through a patent process."

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Helson Jackets

The artwork shows a number of videos: the couple's son as a baby just a few days old, the NASA Voyager 1 probe -- the farthest human-created object from earth -- a jellyfish seeming to swim in the air -- what Helson and Jackets describe as "an investigation of remote relationships, intimacy and dislocation", hoping to reveal understanding of humanity's place in the universe.

But it can, according to the video of the prototype, be used for practical applications, such as creating 3D drawings, CAD designs and mesh models -- the first, it seems, of its kind.

"As far as we know this is the first made this way and at this scale. There is a machine that looks similar in the USA, although it uses different technology and the image size is very much smaller -- just a few centimetres -- the video objects on our machine are up to 300mm," Helson said. "We have recently had a patent audit which identified a number of devices that attempted volumetric display via various technical approaches, none of which are have achieved the same results as we have at the scale."

At the moment, the machine is still in its prototype stage, although Helson and Jackets are open to the idea of commercial development.

"This is still a prototype; however, it has reached a point that could be developed commercially and we would be happy to explore this," Helson explained. "If someone wanted to buy one they could, it would be a bespoke machine rather than a production model, but it's possible."

Help Me Obi will be on display at the Alt-w exhibition, through which it won an award, at the Edinburgh Art Festival from July 31 to August 31.

 

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