NPR

Why Don't We Have Princess Leia Holograms Yet?

Researchers continue to chase down the sci-fi holy grail of genuine free-standing holograms — and they're getting pretty close. One obstacle: Current computing systems just aren't up to it.
Researchers at the University of Rochester unveiled a system that uses laser projection to generate 3-D holograms. Source: University of Rochester

It's one of the most iconic scenes in all of science fiction: In the original Star Wars, the droid R2-D2 projects a 3-D image onto a tabletop. Princess Leia, projected as a tiny hologram, desperately asks the semi-retired Jedi master Ben Kenobi for assistance: "Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

Still brings the chills, doesn't it? The free-standing 3-D hologram has been a staple of science fiction for decades. But like the phaser and the flying car, it's one of those sci-fi dreams that has yet to become reality.

We're getting awfully close, though. Earlier this, the system uses laser projection to generate actual 3-D holograms in midair — no projection surface, no virtual reality goggles, no 3-D glasses, no augmented reality tricks.

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