Manoj Kochar, chair of the International Hologram Manufacturers Association, says new display applications reflect the way holography continues to push the technological boundaries.

Imagine walking through a museum, an exhibition hall - or perhaps a retail store - where the exhibits and displays 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 simply can’t compete with. It’s also an idea that’s perhaps not too far off 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 Tornado 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.

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.

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 this nascent technology 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 the hologram marks decades since its invention, the technology remains undimmed, evidently going from strength-to-strength as an innovative, ground breaking and highly effective display device. And, as it gazes at a vista of new opportunity emerging, there’s no reason why holography will not continue to enjoy a bright and interesting future.

The IHMA ( is made up of 100 of the world's leading hologram companies. Members include the leading producers and converters of holograms for banknote security, anti-counterfeiting, brand protection, packaging, graphics and other commercial applications around the world, and actively cooperate to maintain the highest professional, security and quality standards.