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While the resurrection of Tupac and Michael Jackson were both pretty impressive, they weren’t exactly the sci-fi technology breakthroughs we’ve been waiting for since the Holodeck in Star Trek. But if you were left feeling disappointed by the beyond-the-grave spectacles, we have some hope for your technology-craving hearts!

Japanese technology company Burton Inc. recently wowed the Internet with a demonstration of a laser plasma device that enabled them to project 3-D images into the sky.

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Of course, when we say 3-D images, we’re not talking about anything like Tupac’s ghost or Avatar. These are actually sparks of light organized in three dimensions in the middle of the air–without screens or fog to bounce light off of. Instead, Burton Inc. has developed a method that uses lasers and plasma emissions to create bursts of light in three-dimensional space. As they explain on their website:

“Our display device uses the plasma emission phenomenon near the focal point of focused laser light. By controlling the position of the focal point in the x, y, and z axes, it displays real 3-D images constructed by dot arrays in the air.”

In other words, molecules are ionized (basically given a strong charge) by focusing infrared pulse lasers at various points in the air. After ionization, the molecules release bright bursts of light and return to their non-ionized state. This allows Burton Inc.’s device to not only display dots in the air but also to move the dots–essentially creating a very low resolution display not entirely dissimilar to what you might have seen on a computer game in 1962.

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Here are a pair of posters the company created to show how their device works.

▼Click for a much larger version.

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Of course, GIFs and pictures will never be enough to really get a good idea of what it actually looks like in action, so here’s a demonstration video that was uploaded recently.

In the video, Akira Asano, Burton’s director, explains that they’re currently in the process of commercializing the technology, with a goal to set the displays up in vehicles so they can be transported easily. While you may have already come up with a few hundred different uses for this display–chief among them drawing a mustache on the Statue of Liberty–Burton has much more altruistic aims. The device was initially conceived as an emergency communication system to provide tsunami warnings, indicate evacuation locations, or help people find food. And while this technology may be cutting-edge, they’re apparently closing in on a production model–Asano indicated that they hoped to have a mobile version ready next year.Light  (2)

And for those of you living overseas, worry not! Burton is planning to eventually export their product as well, so you’ll have the opportunity to write lewd messages in the sky all you want! That said, they haven’t mentioned a price yet, and we suspect that “cheap” will not be an applicable adjective. Sadly, this probably won’t be something for the average person to purchase for quite some time. Then again, considering the low resolution and dismal refresh rate, we’ll probably want to wait until the 4K, 60-frames-per-second version is released. What a great way to watch movies that will be!

Although we have to admit that we can’t wait to play Tinkerbell Pong in the sky!

Sources: DDN Japan, YouTube, Burton Inc.
Images: DDN Japan, YouTube