Holographic maps developed by Zebra Imaging (Austin, TX) and sponsored by a US Army contract allow soldiers to view three-dimensional (3D) landscapes and cityscapes prior to entering a battle zone. The technology, which has other uses in both military and civilian applications, relies on software that converts light detection and ranging (lidar) data into an up to 24 × 36 sq-in. rollable laser-written holographic display that can be observed using a simple flashlight, without the need for special viewing glasses or goggles. As the display is moved, 3D details of the scene can be observed from different angles, with a perceived depth up to 30 cm.
The full-parallax 3D display allows groups of individuals to view the map simultaneously, providing a crucial advantage on the battlefield for soldiers in unfamiliar terrain. The laser-written maps, created from open-source images and lidar data, can be produced in just a few hours and shipped to the field in 7–10 days. To date, around 13,000 of the maps have been deployed for combat use. Born out of a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA; Arlington, VA) program, Zebra Imaging is now working on a dynamic display that would use satellite imagery to update the display in near real time. Contact Eric Doane at [email protected].