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Light Field Lab raises $7 million for Holodeck-like holographic displays


Light Field Lab has raised $7 million for holographic display technologies that the company says will make you wonder whether what you’re seeing is real or an illusion.

The money comes from Khosla Ventures and Sherpa Capital, with participation from R7 Partners. It’s a large amount of money for a seed round, but the startup is very ambitious.

San Jose, California-based Light Field Lab will use the funding to complete a prototype of its light-field display systems, which it says will enable real holographic objects to appear as if they are floating in space without the aid of accessories or head-mounted gear.

Jon Karafin, CEO of Light Field Lab, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the hope is to eventually create something akin to the fictional Star Trek Holodeck, where illusion and reality are indistinguishable. In the near term, the company is creating prototype displays that will show very high-resolution images in a 3D space.

“We are very excited to work with these investors,” Karafin said. “We are building a truly holographic projection wall.”

The walls could be placed on floors or ceilings, and then they would project holographic images into a 3D space.

“Light Field Lab has the potential to change the way we view and interact with media,” said Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla, in a statement. “This is essentially the holy grail of optical display technology, enabling things that seem like science fiction to be possible today. We are thrilled to be in on the ground floor with the team, and look forward to helping evolve this exciting technology.”

The initial modules are six inches by four inches, and they can project images into a 3D space. The production modules will be something like 2 feet by 2 feet, and they will have a resolution of 16K by 10K, far more dense than the 4K, two-dimensional screens we use today in high-end TVs, Karafin said.

“When you get these types of resolutions, you are no longer able to tell the difference between the real and the synthetic,” he said. “When you look at a display, you know it is a display. This is a true window into a world.”

Those 2-feet-by-2-feet modules will be stitched together to make 100-feet wide screens, with huge images that could be used at venues such as theme park attractions, concerts, and other events. The initial customers in the space will be theme parks or location-based entertainment, Karafin said.

“Projecting holograms is just the beginning,” said Karafin. “We are building the core modules to enable a real-world Holodeck. The strategic guidance offered by our investors is critical to enable these breakthrough technologies.

Light Field Lab will target its real-world holographic experiences at both professional and consumer markets with a complete system. Eventually, it hopes to build holographic video walls with hundreds of gigapixels of resolution.

The company was founded in 2017 by Karafin, Brendan Bevensee, and Ed Ibe. But Karafin said he had been thinking about the challenge for a decade. The company has a handful of employees and contractors now, and it would expand during 2018. The team had experience working at Lytro in the past.

“Our core premise is to take the accessories like glasses and headsets off the body,” Karafin said. “They don’t give you a true immersive experience. With us, you can project out life-size things that are directly in the room with you. It is as if you have a digital blank canvas and can transport anyone to any world. When you have that, you have the Holodeck. That is what we are building toward.”

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Existing EV batteries could be recharged five times faster

Lithium-ion batteries have massively improved in the last half-decade, but there are still issues. The biggest, especially for EVs, is that charging takes too long to make them as useful as regular cars for highway driving. Researchers from the University of Warwick (WMG) have discovered that we may not need to be so patient, though. They developed a new type of sensor that measures internal battery temperatures and discovered that we can probably recharge them up to five times quicker without overheating problems.

Overcharging a lithium-ion battery anode can lead to lithium buildup, which can break through a battery's separator, create a short-circuit and cause catastrophic failure. That can cause the electrolyte to emit gases and literally blow up the battery, so manufacturers impose strict charging power limits to prevent it.

Those limits are based on hard-to-measure internal temperatures, however, which is where the WMG probe comes in. It's a fiber optic sensor, protected by a chemical layer that can be directly inserted into a lithium-ion cell to give highly precise thermal measurements without affecting its performance.

The team tested the sensor on standard 18650 li-ion cells, used in Tesla's Model S and X, among other EVs. They discovered that they can be charged five times faster than previously thought without damage. Such speeds would reduce battery life, but if used judiciously, the impact would be minimized, said lead researcher Dr. Tazdin Amietszajew.

Faster charging as always comes at the expense of overall battery life but many consumers would welcome the ability to charge a vehicle battery quickly when short journey times are required and then to switch to standard charge periods at other times.

There's still some work to do. While the research showed the li-ion cells can support higher temperatures, EVs and charging systems would have to have "precisely tuned profiles/limits" to prevent problems. It's also not clear how battery makers would install the sensors in the cells.

Nevertheless, it shows a lot of promise for much faster charging speeds in the near future. Even if battery capacities stayed the same, charging in 5 minutes instead of 25 could flip a lot of drivers over to the green side.

Via: Clean Technica

Source: University of Warwick

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