Princess Leia demo with Kinect and holographic projector

MIT researchers are making progress with their "Princess Leia" hologram demo, a system that uses Microsoft Kinect to capture live 3D data and transmit it over the Net to a holographic projector. I first saw a previous generation of this projector demonstrated more than a dozen years ago by the late holography pioneer Professor Stephen Benton. The technology blew me away then and it's come a long way, even though the effect may not translate so well in the video above. From New Scientist:

The real holographic image couldn't match the resolution achieved by special effects in the movie, (MIT professor Michael) Bove says, but adds, "Princess Leia wasn't being transmitted in real time. She was stored" in R2-D2's memory.

Bove's group started with an array of 16 low-resolution infrared cameras, spaced evenly along a metre-long line. Computer processing combined the images to generate the data needed for the 3D holographic projector at the rate of 15 frames per second.

The next step came in late December when they bought their first Kinect, and hacked the camera system made by PrimeSense of Israel, which records three-dimensional profiles by projecting a grid of laser light onto a scene. This approach, called structured light, yields resolution of 640 by 480 pixels, three times higher than each infrared camera. That was good enough to record the holographic Princess Leia scene shown here.

"Kinect used to create holographic video of Princess Leia" (New Scientist)

"3-D TV? How about holographic TV?" (MIT News)