By 2020, floating imagery might be as common as the LCD, LED displays in our surroundings in advertisements etc. This is what Mitsubishi Electronics are looking to achieve with their upcoming “aerial display”. They are hoping to perfect the technology by then and make it commercially available. Presently, they have taken it up to display of images of up to 56 inches (142 cm) diagonally. These images hover in ether.
A deeper look into the working of the aerial display system follows.
The image, either it be a still or a video, is displayed on a screen that is perpendicular and not visible to the human viewing the display. Diagonal to that screen, is a beam splitter, a glass device splitting beams of light in two.
This leads to formation of duplicate images that are formed when the screen image is reflected off the back of the beam splitter. Being reflected off a retro-reflective sheet and passing through the beam splitter, these images converge mid-air in front of the viewer. This allows the perception of a single image by the user, dangling mid-air in front of them.
According to the designers at Mitsubishi Electronics, in the testing phases, it is quite difficult for the users to focus on the image, mainly because they are not aware of the positioning of the image and don’t know where to focus on. This led to the inclusion of “guide images” in the system, these images are projected onto walls or fixed surfaces to either side of the floating images, this guides the user to where to look and focus.
This entire system including the aerial images as well as the guide images measures 90 inches (229 cm) diagonally.
University of Tokyo’s HaptoMime system is utilizing a similar technology, allowing their users to reach into a mid-air display.