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New Tech Signage Could Banish the Night

By Jim Bray   

Remember when you could see the stars at night, even if you lived in the city?

Okay, you still can to a certain extent, though it's nothing compared with a clear night in the boonies – but thanks to a 3D laser display system that's being developed in Japan, amateur astronomers, lovers, or just plain folk who enjoy seeing the night sky may have to bid the big dipper adieu.

Ah, more light pollution. Isn't that just what we all need?

These new tech displays are being developed at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science in Tokyo, by people who undoubtedly think they're doing something good. Their system is designed to create gigantic, three dimensional images in the air above us in what could be the perfect platform for a new type of advertising campaign that'll be extremely hard to ignore.

And aren't 3D airborne Viagra ads just what we need? 

To create the images in question, these innovators focus an invisible laser onto a point in the air, a beam that's intense enough to break the air down into a glowing plasma which gives off points of light. The result seems, at least to me, kind of like a gigantic hologram, which could be cool – and I imagine it could work day or night, though it'd undoubtedly be far more effective at night.

So get ready to look up in the sky and, rather than seeing a bird, a plane or even "Superperson", seeing a giant, 3D Hooters girl keeping you abreast of their new special, or maybe a huge Pepsi logo or even a simple "Eat at Joe's" in letters too large to ignore.

The technology could even be used eventually to create moving pictures, which would be accomplished by flashing slightly different still laser images into the air very quickly, the same basic way movies and TV pictures are done currently: projecting a series of progressive still images quickly enough that the human brain perceives them as a single moving image. 

As with anything else, the technology itself is neither good nor bad – it's how it's used that makes the difference. And to that end, advertising is only one potential use for this technique.  Such big 3D images could be used to summon emergency personnel to an accident site – kind of like a real life Bat signal, I suppose – perhaps via a projector you keep in your car's glove compartment or your back pack. They could also be used as temporary road signs warning drivers away from accident or construction sites.

And if you want to make a really big splash, which is probably where the advertising aspect will come in, you could fire off the signal from space and ensure it's seen by huge segments of the human race.

I have no idea how these signs would look, other than big and bright, but they'd have to be pretty clear to avoid confusion or create traffic havoc where they're trying to avoid it. And I hope they take into account such dangers as the potential cost to human life of attracting motorists' eyes to the sky when they should be watching the road.

But the free market being what it is, such wrinkles will undoubtedly be ironed out with the appropriate application of skull sweat and inspiration. Or maybe I live in a fantasy land…

I don't know now soon they're planning to deploy this stuff into the real world, but I imagine it'll only take about five minutes after the official introduction for someone to use these projections for prank or propaganda purposes.

Imagine the possibilities: a new Orson Welles projecting images of an alien invasion, or maybe someone will project cartoons of a religious figure into the air over where his or her more excitable followers are congregating, just to rattle their cages.

Nah. Never happen.

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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