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3-D imaging research could aid military planning

by Maria Callier
Air Force Office of Scientific Research Public Affairs

12/10/2007 - ARLINGTON, Va. (AFPN) -- Air Force Office of Scientific Research-funded scientists are currently developing unique, updateable holographic 3-D displays that can be used in military applications. 

The holographic 3-D images can be used in command and control for viewing battle space in nearly real time using realistic images that can be updated regularly at short intervals, said Dr. Nasser Peyghambarian.   The team lead for the group from the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona.  

"These images can also be used for training purposes as well," Dr. Peyghambarian said.  "Three-dimensional imaging allows a lot of data to be presented simultaneously, a task that is not possible with the use of two-dimensional pictures."  

"Until now dynamic, holographic 3-D images suitable for practical uses did not exist. Our newly developed displays exhibit memory and large size, which makes them stand out among other approaches to dynamic 3-D imaging."

The scientists are able to achieve high-definition 3-D images by using holography to store the appearance of objects or scenes into thin films with the use of laser light, and they have gone one step further beyond static images.

"We've replaced fixed holographic storage materials with dynamic ones" Dr. Peyghambarian said. "We use high-efficiency, low-cost dynamic recording materials capable of very large sizes, which is very important for life-size, realistic 3-D displays. We can record complete scenes or objects within three minutes and can store them for three hours."

Dr. Darrel Hopper is also exploring true 3-D technologies for applications in air, space and cyber command centers. He is part of a team at the Air Force Research Laboratory's Human Effectiveness Directorate at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. Dr. Hopper uses the term "true 3-D" to distinguish systems like the AFOSR updatable holographic effort at the University of Arizona.

"We develop and evaluate various true 3-D systems for their value added beyond the two-dimensional visualization technologies currently used -- for example, in Air Force combined air operations centers," Dr. Hopper said.

According to Dr. Peyghambarian, the next steps are to increase the size of the 3-D displays to 1 foot by 1 foot and then 3 feet by 3 feet, make them in color, and increase the writing speed of the images.

"We also need to examine the psychological aspects of 3-D viewing and the question of how humans interact with 3-D displays," he said. "For example, it's believed that pilots may react and make decisions much faster if they receive 3-D information, which is much more realistic compared with the two-dimensional displays they currently use."

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