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Mitsubishi aims to make cities come alive with new hologram tech

The electronics giant hopes to have its new "aerial display" technology, which can make signage spring into action, ready for when Japan hosts the 2020 Olympics.


As some might recall, the 1989 film "Back to the Future II" proposed that 2015 was the year some rather unique technologies would be available. Actual, air-riding hoverboards, which we're still waiting on, and self-tying sneakers, which Nike invented last year, were the most memorable.

Mitsubishi might soon bring one more Back to the Future prediction to life, thanks to its new "aerial display" technology, which is reminiscent of the scene in which Marty McFly gets chomped on by a virtual shark that leaps out of a movie marquee. Development for fully realised holographic objects has been completed and Mitsubishi expects to bring the technology to the public in the next four years, in time for the 2020 Olympics.

The Japanese electronics giant has been working to realise the most ideal form of holography -- realistic images suspended in the open air rather than against a wall or flat surface. The technology can currently project images measuring approximately 56 inches in size, with Mitsubishi aiming to develop a number of practical applications such as signage and entertainment (like a giant holographic shark "devouring" unsuspecting citizens). The company's Aerial Display is expected to become commercially available from 2020.

Hologram technology has been around for decades, with its earliest uses being developed back in the early '60s shortly after the invention of practical lasers. Since then, examples have been found in almost every part of daily life, from currency to passports to the temporary resurrection of rappers. In fact, one of Japan's most popular songstresses, Hatsune Miku, is entirely digital.

Mitsubishi first began research and development into aerial display technologies in April 2015 in partnership with Utsunomiya University. The partnership led to technology that enabled a displayed image to be reflected onto a super-reflective surface then passed through a beam splitter that creates the aerial display. To combat the sometimes finicky nature of holography, projections that guide the viewer to the proper viewing angle will simultaneously be shot onto surrounding walls and surfaces.