In five years, cell phones will be able to produce holograms of friends and colleagues talking and moving in real time, IBM researchers say.
"We see 3D [video] technology moving into the cell phone, which will have the ability to transmit information off the cell phone to create a 3D hologram, projecting the hologram on any surface in life size," said Paul Bloom, IBM's CTO for telecommunications research, in a recent interview.
With a cell phone hologram, a user would be able to walk next to a hologram of a friend, or a worker could project an enlarged 3D image of a product needing repair to walk inside it and detect problems, Bloom said. "The repair person could go inside the device instead of looking it up in a manual," he said. "It has lots of implications."
IBM is already working on the cell phone hologram concept in its labs, and Bloom predicted that a prototype should be ready in five years. The cameras that are being used to create early versions of holograms still need to be miniaturized, and software needs to be written to for receiving input from those cameras, he added.
The cell phone hologram concept is one technology listed on the fifth annual "IBM Next Five in Five" list, which highlights five innovations that the company predicts will change people's lives over the next five years.
IBM has featured its latest forecast list, including the cell phone holograms, in a YouTube video. The others are lithium batteries that breathe air to power devices; computers that help share energy resources over entire cities; personalized GPS navigation derived from inputs from many devices; and cell phones used as sensors to track seismic events or other Earth-based phenomena.
Bloom said IBM is already in the early stages of these project and has a good record at making past Five in Five predictions into reality. One prediction from five years ago envisioned telemedicine, where data on patients is transmitted hundreds of miles to a specialist. In a related fashion, doctors are in IBM trials using 3D video images inside monitors to make diagnoses and even remote surgery, Bloom said.
Many of the innovations on IBM's list focus on cell phones and other mobile devices. For example, IBM predicts that commuters will get personalized commuting information, possibly on a cell phone or desktop computer, that combines a person's calendar for a given day with recent traffic reports from multiple sources. The information could come from tracking the speed of cars on a freeway, based on the time it takes for a cell phone to move from one cell tower to the next one, Bloom said.