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3D holograms show if baby's smiling in the womb

Want to see how your unborn baby is reacting to life on the inside? Pioneer has started printing the expressions of tiny tykes as ultrasound holograms.

This little guy looks pretty content.
Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET

Remember back in the olden days, when you had to wait till your baby came out of the womb to start determining whose nose and chin it had?

Pioneer, maker of speakers, receivers, and headphones, is moving into the in-utero-baby-picture realm with 3D holograms that give a remarkably detailed look at an infant's early visage.

The company does that using a full-color hologram printer. The device, which fits into a briefcase, can record a full color card-size hologram in 120 minutes, and a single-color hologram in 90 minutes.

While holograms are generally created using photographs of an object shot from different angles, Pioneer's images are recorded from scans using a high-performance film from Bayer Material Science called Bayfol HX.

"When an expecting mother has a checkup, a 3D/4D echogram is made, and that contains 3D data. So, we suggest taking prebirth photos of the baby, by skillfully processing that data," Pioneer's Yoshinao Ito tells DigiInfo, which just posted a video demonstration of the year-old printer. "With the device we've developed, even if you don't have the actual object, as long as you have a CG design, then that can be used to record a hologram easily."

While Pioneer has been exhibiting its baby holograms in card-case holders and jewelry boxes to demonstrate the printer's capabilities -- and show parents how old-world their sonogram shots look hanging on the wall -- it's unclear how widely available, or costly, the service might be.

The holograms practically let expectant parents reach out and touch their newborn. Video screenshot by Leslie Katz/CNET