MIT Team Developing Eye-Catching, Super Realistic 6-D Imaging Device

3-D images? Peshaw. Those are so 2007. What humanity needs now is what MIT researchers hope to provide very soon: super realistic "passive 6-D reflectance field displays" that not only look great, but also respond to stimuli, like lighting conditions. And, not only will these uber images do all that and a bag of chips, they'll be able to change over time as lighting conditions change, with "no electronics or active control" from we mere humans. Oh, and the displays will respond the changes in viewpoint, meaning these visual wonders will have a creepy degree of interactivity to them too (read: legitimate holograms).

The 6-D project is headed by Ramesh Raskar, who together with his MIT colleagues created the display using nothing but a series of lenses and screens. The prototype is due out at this week's annual SIGGRAPH (Special Interest Group on Graphics and Interactive Techniques) conference, but here's a few teaser details to tide you over until the unveiling on August 11:

By using an array of tiny square lenses instead of the linear ones, [those inexpensive postcard 3-D images] can also be made to change as you change the viewing angle up or down - making a "4-D" image. This reveals different views with horizontal as well as vertical movement of the viewer. The new "lighting aware" [6-D] system adds additional layers of lenses and screens to add two more dimensions of change. The image that is seen is then not only based on the position of the viewer, but also on the direction of the illumination.

Now the good news is this device will be on display in a raw, low resolution form next week. The bad news? A working, high res model, with all its interactive, true hologram goodness, is some 10 years away. My Princess Leia rescue fantasies will have to wait another decade, it would seem. [MIT]