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Laser display could mean 3D sans screens

Annoyed by the need for pesky 3D glasses and screens? This 3D projector uses focused laser light for a true sense of dimension.

When "Star Wars" projected a hologram of Princess Leia in 1977, lots of viewers surely dreamed that the technology could one day become real.

It may not be too much longer before you can tell Obi-Wan what to do in a time of peril. Lucasfilm

Some 34 years later, Japanese display company Burton is working on something akin to George Lucas' vision with a projector that focuses laser light into moving 3D shapes capable of being displayed in air or under water.

If this technology continues to advance, we could one day have 3D experiences without the need for glasses or even a screen. To create the effect, focused laser light excites the naturally occurring oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the air, otherwise known as plasma excitation.

The current prototype can manifest up to 50,000 points of light at 10-15 frames per second, while efforts are already underway to improve that to a film-like 24-30fps. Those cringing at the Unix-esque green scheme can be rest assured this 3D display is not limited to just green: the traditional red, green, and blue color mix can be combined to create full-color 3D moving images.

Burton worked in collaboration with the original developers of the technology, AIST and Keio University.

A device like this put in the hands of marketers would ensure that ads like the 3D Jaws 19 advertisement that scared Marty McFly in "Back to the Future 2" could one day be real. Alternatively, Star Wars geeks could project an image of Endor (and the second Death Star floating nearby) in their basements while giving a solid Admiral Ackbar impersonation.