Better than holograms: A new 3-D projection into thin air

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Better than holograms: A new 3-D projection into thin air
This photo provided by the Dan Smalley Lab at Brigham Young University in January 2018 shows a projected image of researcher Erich Nygaard in Provo, Utah. Scientists have figured out how to manipulate tiny nearly unseen specks in the air and use them to produce images more realistic than most holograms, according to a study published on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2018, in the journal Nature. (Dan Smalley Lab, Brigham Young University via AP)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Scientists say they have come up with a new technology that beams 3-D images into thin air that are more realistic and clearer than holograms.

Researchers at Brigham Young University reported they have mimicked on a small scale the way R2-D2 beamed a 3-D image of Princess Leia into thin air in “Star Wars.”

BYU electrical engineering professor Daniel Smalley says that the key is controlling tiny specks in the air with lasers that act like a tractor beam, turning those dust-like particles into both screen and projector.

With his new technology, Smalley made images of a graduate student imitating the “Star Wars” scene and a butterfly dancing above a finger.

The study is in Wednesday’s journal Nature.