It’s unfair to the people and companies that develop display technologies that our mental version of what would be the perfect display has already been determined by Star Trek and Star Wars and Bladerunner and so on and so on.

The three dimensional holographic image floating unsupported in the air is the inarguable goal in everyone’s mind. And in a world where science fiction writing is in decline because it can’t keep up with information technology and bioscience, display technology is lagging a little behind.

Some companies are making some progress, however. There are of course a number of products that have appeared here and in the pages of Live Design in recent years that seem to be 3D in nature, most notably the Eyeliner system. Also notable would be FogScreen, which can approximate 3D by being translucent and having an absence of surface depth cues. But neither of these systems is truly 3D.

At the other end of the spectrum—and in a completely different industry—a few innovators are experimenting with new devices that really display in 3D.

Perspecta, developed by Actuality Systems, is a lot like crystal ball. In a plastic dome containing a near-vacuum, a translucent grey screen spins at 900rpm. By drawing images onto the screen as it spins through certain points on its axis, Perspecta can create a spherical, ethereal image. Its principal use so far has been in the medical visualization market, helping doctors under MRI, CAT, and PET images more completely.

DepthCube, developed by LightSpace Technologies, looks a bit like an old television: thick, squat, and with a relatively small screen contained in a larger box. The reason for this clunkiness is an elegant attribute. DepthCube’s four-inch thick screen of sandwiched transparent LCD panels can create the illusion of twelve inches of depth by using standard anti-aliasing software to make its 15.3 million pixels look like 465 million voxels (3D pixels).

Interestingly, both of these new technologies use off-the-shelf OpenGL graphics, gaming cards, and standard DLP chips, so the signal and light processing is taken care of. Now all we need to do is figure out how to activate pixels floating in the air. Would somebody get on that already?