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BBC's prototype holographic television goes on display

BBC engineers have created a simple holographic TV to test how audiences would engage with content displayed in an almost life-like form.

The device relies on an old theatre trick, using an acrylic pyramid positioned on the surface of a horizontally flipped flat 46-inch flat TV screen. A similar approach has been previously used by many geeks to turn their smartphones into hologram displays but the BBC experiment is the first to explore the technology as part of a larger device on the scale of a domestic television.

The technology works only with certain types of footage, which needs to be specially formatted.

“For this project, we worked with UK-based visual effects company MDH Hologram,” said Cyrus Saihan, BBC head of digital partnership.

“MDH took some of our footage and tweaked and formatted it to make it as lifelike as possible in our device.”

The footage displayed to visitors touring the BBC’s New Broadcasting House building in London included the BBC’s globes, a dinosaur, a beating heart and fireworks.

Some of the visitors said they felt captivated by the holographic content and enjoyed viewing the object from different angles as they moved around.

The team admitted the technology has considerable limitations. Not only does it require a certain type of specially formatted footage, the viewing angles are relatively narrow and the technology requires lighting levels in the room to be quite low.

The physics of the light reflecting off the pyramid and the TV’s screen size also means that there will always be a practical limit to the size of a display such as this, the BBC said.

The visitors suggested they would particularly enjoy watching nature documentaries on a holographic TV as well as sport.

“You can imagine a world where instead of watching a film star being interviewed on the sofa of a TV chat show, they feel as if they are sitting right next to you on your own sofa in your living room, or where instead of looking at a 2D image of Mount Everest, it appears as if the snow on the mountain top is falling around you,” the BBC said.

The BBC’s Research and Development team wrote a theoretical paper on holographic techniques already in the 1970s.



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