Advances display new opportunities for holography

January 25, 2021

New display applications illustrate the way commercial holograms continue to push the technological boundaries, says Dr Paul Dunn, chair of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA).

Industry 4 (Internet of Things) technologies continue to be developed, expanding our horizons and creating almost limitless opportunities to push the edge when it comes to exciting new applications - computer vision and digital twin are display-dependent technologies which are creating more market opportunities. The idea to enable display devices with AR and holographic capabilities will enhance the operability and efficiency for computer vision, digital twin, and any related display dependent technology.

The major drivers for the market’s growth are increased demand of holographic displays in events and advertisements and escalated demand of holography for medical imaging in the healthcare industry. These holographic optical elements (HOEs) – for instance, incorporated in LEDs used as vehicle rear lights and brake lights - are gaining traction to improve light levels on small and large format LCD and OLED displays used for dashboard instrumentation.

Indeed, display holograms, which sometimes get overlooked within the holographic market, possess growth potential and are part of a global 3D holographic display and services market projected to be worth almost USD$2bn by 2025. This is being driven by the continuous efforts to modernise the advertisement and media industry. Additionally, the growth of the retail industry is further pushing the demand for more advanced technologies in marketing and merchandising strategies.

Pushing new horizons

Alongside the emergence of new applications on ID documentation, which include products incorporating new ‘opto-digital’ functionalities, we are seeing the growing exploration of holographic technologies for new wearable head-up displays and other smart devices to enhance people’s lives.

For example, consider walking through a museum, an exhibition hall, or perhaps a retail store, where the exhibits, displays and attractions appear to come to ‘life’ in a dramatic, visually dynamic and almost tactile way, creating an array of new sensory experiences. It’s a vision that traditionally designed posters, static displays and information points is unable to compete with. It’s also an idea that is becoming a reality, as a new generation of advanced display holograms open-up opportunities across the commercial spectrum.

Indeed, display holograms are demonstrating potential to become one of the strongest-growing sectors of the wider commercial holographic industry as traction starts to bite and interest among end-users and specifiers spirals upwards. Recent progress in light emitting diode (LED) technology is opening-up new possibilities for the display of colour holograms - or optical clones. These offer considerable advantages over halogen and other traditional light sources: longer life, smaller size, increased durability and robustness to thermal and vibration shocks, low energy usage/high energy efficiencies, and enhanced colour control.

The development of a special spotlight called HoLoFoS, which produces high quality reproduction qualities, is an example of the latest advances in LED technology, while another - OptoClone™ - offers a laser-produced colour hologram that’s displayed using LED lights in a special case. This creates an extremely realistic, like-for-like size image that can appear to the human eye in super sharp focus and is virtually identical to the real object.

The opportunities this will be create, in the museums sector, for example, are considerable - and one project at the UK’s Centre for Modern Optics vividly illustrates the exciting potential for the technology. High resolution optical clones of various artefacts including a Tudor-period owl and Sergeant-at-Arms ring have been produced as part of a touring exhibition that offers a new visitor experience. Elsewhere, the world-famous Fabergé eggs have been the beneficiary of advanced display hologram technology. In a ground-breaking move, optical clones have been created of the 1911 Bay Tree Faberge Easter Egg for visitors to admire.

Other applications include the recording of oil paintings which are so finely detailed that the structure and texture of the painting, including the brush strokes, are reproduced in near perfect colour.

Another interesting application includes the Tornado-Triebwerk project: a 3m x 1m laser transmission hologram of an RAF jet fighter engine, complete with high impact detail and dimensionality, developed as a promotional attraction for trade shows and exhibitions. One of the largest of its kind, it’s another example of how the boundaries of display holography are being pushed in ever more interesting, creative and visually intriguing directions.

The high-quality colour reproduction and extensive field of view offered by technologies such as OptoClones™, add to the illusion of seeing a real object rather than portraying a static photograph. In turn, this shines a light on the open opportunities for the leisure and visitor attraction sectors, where new 3D imaging techniques will be increasingly deployed to boost visitors looking to enjoy a more visceral experience of art, and its history and place within different cultures.

Improving images

Current advances in display holograms also embraces HOEs (holographic optical elements). While still in its infancy, this is an extremely interesting area of opportunity for holography and we are starting to see organisations exploring holography technologies for such things as new wearable head-up displays and other smart devices to enhance people’s lives. With LEDs in use as vehicle rear lights and brake lights, HOEs can be used to enhance the emitted light while they also have an important role in vehicle instrumentation and improving the image on small and large format LCD and OLED (organic light-emitting diode) displays.

Holographic technology is also improving head-up displays for planes and cars, making it easier for pilots and drivers to see critical flight data or driving directions on the windshield while viewing the outside world. Work by developers in the USA has led to a functional prototype heads-up display that uses holographic optical elements to achieve an eye box substantially larger than what is available without the holographic element.

The commercial realisation of nascent display technologies could see a product within a few years that uses holography to create a thin optical element that ultimately can be applied onto a windshield directly. Holographic optical elements redirect light from a small image into a piece of glass, where it is confined until it reaches another holographic optical element that extracts the light. The approach could be expanded to create full-colour heads-up displays or create a much larger image that is extracted by the holographic element to increase the size, or field of view, of the display.

It remains appropriate that as commercial holography mark years of success, the technology remains undimmed, going from strength-to-strength with capacity as an innovative, ground-breaking and highly effective display device. And, as it we consider a post pandemic global landscape, there’s no reason why it will not continue to play its part and find exciting new applications.


For further information on the International Hologram Manufacturers Association (IHMA), please visit

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