We Heart Holograms

Posted on Feb 23, 2017

We Heart Holograms

Matter PR are promoting a UK-based project to develop an interactive holographic video that can display live footage of internal organs such as a beating heart, delivering a breakthrough in medical imaging and education.

Watching your heart beat, your lungs inflate, or your unborn child in life size as a hologram that can be rotated or enlarged in real time is no longer the stuff of science fiction thanks to engineers at Holoxica Limited, who are developing a moving 3D video hologram.

Matter PR are working with the digital incubator ACTPHAST who are supporting the project. Actphast is a ‘one-stop shop’ digital incubator designed to provide open access to photonics innovation support for eligible European companies, and photonics technology.

With no need for 3D specs or a virtual reality headset, the dynamic or ‘moving video’ 3rd Generation holograms are made by gathering multiple ‘slices’ of an internal organ, such as a brain or a liver, from a normal CT or MRI scanner. These ‘slices’ of data are then assembled through a ‘diffractive holographic screen’, producing single colour green pixels, or ‘voxels’, in mid-air and essentially bending light to the will of the user.

Hologram specialists Holoxica have linked photonics technology with their 1st and 2nd Generation holographic motion displays to develop one of the most revered gadgets of science fiction, an idea that never seemed to take off in real life.

Instead of trying to create a mythical “Star Wars” display, Holoxica took a more pragmatic approach by starting with the simplest holographic display, a single pixel, or ‘voxel’, in 3D space, that could be switched on or off.

Holoxica’s CEO, Dr Javid Khan explains:

“After the first voxel, we moved on to two, working up to 4, then 9, then 16 voxels and so on. Our images are not projected; they are holographically reconstructed using diffractive optics. Projection implies scattering off a surface, but here there is no surface, only air. We are using photonics design and engineering of diffractive optical elements to bend or form light to produce images in mid-air.”

“Although we are looking at targeting medical, scientific and engineering imaging fields to start with, holographic video will change gaming, communication and create a new digital revolution,” Dr Khan enthused.


With the possibility to isolate features, zoom in, rotate and pan around 3D space, the 3rd Generation dynamic display presents an array of exciting opportunities for the future of surgery and anatomical study.

“Take current imaging techniques like CT scans where radiologists are trained to interpret the multiple levels of data, or ‘slices’ of the brain. Medical consultants, specialists and surgeons are not trained to do this and therefore need to build up a mental stack of the scans or rely on second-hand interpretation.”

“For the first time, a physician will be able to see a tumour in an impossible part of the brain and make an informed decision. This is also easier for patients to understand what is going on. Teaching anatomy with this device will give students a hitherto unrivalled understanding.”

While Augmented and Virtual Reality both have their strengths, both rely on an artificial separation from the real world, a point Holoxica are keen to exploit.

“VR headsets have fundamental limitations which makes them unsuitable for a true 3D experience. These technologies do not recreate a true 3D image: they present a pair of 2D images to both eyes.”

“This stereo disparity leads to a poor 3D experience as it is fundamentally unacceptable to the human brain, resulting in problems such as motion sickness, dizziness and nausea. The headsets also mess up your hair and provide a potential breeding ground for bacteria.”

Earlier this year the Holoxica received a grant of €1.3 million from the EU via the European Union’s Horizon 2020, after a successful partnership with ACTPHAST, the ‘one-stop shop’ digital incubator designed to provide open access to photonics innovation support for eligible European companies.