What if you could stand close to Sehwag when he’s batting out another century in a test match? Thanks to the technology developed by Malayalee Professor Dr. Jayan Thomas of Arizona University, this distant vision of 3D imagery is slowly turning into reality.
Dr. Jayan Thomas worked with Arizona University’s 6 member team to innovate the technology of tele presence, which is one level ahead of 3D. This technology allows a person to view the 3D image of objects or humans which has been projected on to the screen. This path-breaking technology is all set to put 3D imagery out of business when the viewer can watch even live event coverage in the comfort of his home. What is more, he can even stroll around the image screen or take a sneak peek to obtain a 360 degree view of the objects projected on the screen.
The typical 3D TV or movie can give only two perspectives, one for your left eye and another for your right eye. This is not an actual 3D image, it only imitates the visual feel of what it looks like. In our holographic 3D display system, a scene (or object) is photographed by multiple cameras (or video cameras). Imagine a person sitting on a chair in a camera room. A number of cameras (16 in our case) mounted on the ceiling surround him in a 3600 angle. These are very simple cameras which are available in the market for taking pictures. Hence you will get 16 perspectives of that person in a moment.
These pictures will be collected by a computer and transported to other locations in the word and will be converted to 3D images using a specialised plastic screen, capable of producing holographic images in presence of lasers. As the number of cameras increases, there will be more perspectives and the image looks more like the real person (with all details) in three dimensions. In other words the 3D images displayed in this case will be as good as the real person; you can walk around the displayed person to get a 3600 angle view which is not possible with a typical 3D TV or movie currently available in the market.”
For Dr. Thomas, this has been a project almost ten years in the making. After doing his basic schooling at A.K.J.M. High School in Kanjirapally and finally graduating with an M.Sc. in Chemistry from S.B. College in Changancherry, Kerala, Dr. Thomas had added a doctorate and a post-doctoral fellowship from Cochin University of Science and Technology by 2000.
“I was offered a Scientist position at the world famous Optical Sciences Center at Arizona University in 2001 for developing a conducting plastic for this type of holographic application. In 2004, I published the first research paper about the specific plastic composite used in the current application in the science journal “Advanced Materials”. This paper became the foundation of the current telepresence project. It was in 2008 that our first report on the application of plastics for 3D display appeared in Nature magazine. At that time, the recording time was much slower which was not good for telepresence because you need to wait for at least four minutes to see the image. The only way to make 3D telepresence a reality was by drastically reducing recording time. By improving the plastic we use for the screen and employing a new type of laser, we have managed to reduce this time from the earlier four minutes to a blink-and-miss two seconds! The photoconducting plastic is the most important component of our 3D telepresence system, it needs to respond to the laser light very quickly and efficiently or you could end up with a lot of lag time.”
Ask Dr. Thomas about what are the practical applications of this project and the forty-something scientist almost can't contain his excitement. “In a developing country like India, this technology is invaluable in the kinds of services it can provide. For example, in the medical field, 3D telepresence means that an expert doctor sitting in Boston can control several surgeries happening at different locations across India. A surgical operation theater equipped with several cameras and a computer can transport the images to anywhere in the world and an expert surgeon at that location can actively participate in the procedure by walking around the operation table (of the 3D image) and direct other doctors who are physically present near the operation table to do the surgery very efficiently. This is possible since our 3D display can give much more perspectives than the current 3D technique. Even minute details during surgery can be easily spotted and dealt with. In short, it eliminates transporation of the patient to the expert surgeon’s hospital or the doctor traveling all the way to the patient’s location. This saves time, energy, money and most importantly, lives. Telepresence can also have substantial impact on marketing. For example, if you want to buy a car, you can sit at your home with our 3D display equipment, display all the new models available on your screen by telepresence, enjoy an actual 3600 experience and choose the one you like. In terms of entertainment, 3D televisions, movies, video games and cell phones are all possibilities but will take at least seven to ten years more in actualizing the experience. Medical telepresence, on the other hand, will see immediate application.”