Purdue professor develops way to transmit 3D images through phones

A newly created 3D data-transport system may not be quite as impressive as Star Trek’s “beaming,” but it’s pretty darn close.

The technology—called Holostream—was developed by a Purdue University professor.

“To our knowledge, this system is the first of its kind that can deliver dense and accurate 3D video content in real time across standard wireless networks to remote mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets,” said Song Zhang, an associate professor in Purdue University’s School of Mechanical Engineering.

“Right now, there’s no pipeline between those that create holographic images and devices that can display them,” he added. “That’s where Holostream comes in.”

Zhang began developing the platform a decade ago while working at Iowa State University and has continued that work since joining Purdue’s staff three years ago.

The Holostream platform drastically reduces the data size of 3D video while largely maintaining its quality, allowing transmission within the bandwidths provided by existing wireless networks, he said.

“This is a big leap forward in technology,” Zhang told IBJ. “This platform provides people an opportunity to have 3D communications in a way that right now doesn’t exist.”

In simpler terms, sharper three-dimensional video can be delivered through current mobile phone and internet technology.

“You don’t necessarily need any virtual reality equipment,” Zhang said. “You can use it with your cell phone in the palm of your hand.”

Holostream also improves the quality and expands the capabilities of popular applications already harnessing real-time 3D data delivery, such as teleconferencing and telepresence—which uses virtual reality and other interactive technologies—allowing people to feel or appear as if they were present in a remote location, Zhang explained.

Zhang thinks Holostream has many business applications.

For instance, he said, architectural models of buildings and developments can be sent electronically from one far-flung location to another. Using a 3D printer, the model can be recreated at the receiver’s location. 

The same is true for newly designed parts a manufacturer wants to examine or replicate off site. With Holostream, a manufacturer can conduct quality control checks on items from thousands of miles away, Zhang said. 

The technology could also be used for medical applications—as Holostream allows 3D data to be received real time—and for facial recognition applications, Zhang said. Forensic scientists can capture 3D images of shoe prints in the field, which their mobile phones could instantly transmit to the crime lab for analysis, he added.

And, Zhang said, holographic on-line shopping will allow buyers to see a product from every angle before making a purchase.

“The potential of holographic imaging is tremendous,” Zhang said. “With Holostream that potential comes within reach of everyone everywhere.”

Zhang’s research has been funded by the National Science Foundation. A patent application has been filed through the Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization. The university takes the lead in licensing such inventions for commercial use and the inventor then receives a percentage of that revenue after patent and other fees are paid.

Findings done by a Purdue study on the new platform will be presented at the Electronic Image 2018 conference, which this year is being held Jan. 28-Feb. 2 in Burlingame, California.

Purdue students, including doctoral student Tyler Bell—who is the lead author on a new research paper on Holostream—have aided in the development of the technology.

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