Tactical digital holograms (TDH) are large-scale 3D static imagery presentations that resemble large sheets of x-ray film and allow 3D visualization of any object, geographic area, or other complexity that can be digitally modeled. TDHs are reflective and must be illuminated for viewing, but the illumination may be from any point light source; no special projectors or light sources (e.g., lasers) are required. A typical TDH is comprised of over 500,000 individual holographic elements (hogels), with each hogel containing up to a million different perspective views. TDHs thus provide full image parallax, e.g., simultaneously correct viewing perspectives for all individuals viewing them.

Tactical 3D Digital Holographic Technology

Tactical 3D Digital Holographic Technology. Image Credits: PEO STRI

TDHs have been operationally employed by the Army as mission planning tools for several years, and demand has steadily grown, but initial information on their utility was anecdotal in nature with little or no quantitative data available to evaluate their value.

Tactical Digital Hologram units, which at first glance look like flat plastic maps have been used by the Army research laboratories. The mission of Tactical 3D Holographic Technology is to address the need for a visualization tool that provides a bridge between complex battlefield imagery data and the ability to view this data. This visualization problem is particularly acute for complex terrain, subterranean bunkers and urban combat environments where two-dimensional maps and photographs cannot adequately represent a 3D battlefield. Holograms can be produced from virtually any 3D information, but TDH products to support Warfighters primarily use Light Detection and Ranging/Buckeye data.

Detailed images created from dozens of intelligence sources are laser inscribed on special film to make digital holograms. The holographic images are durable and can be rolled up or cut to any size. Images are typically produced from Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) data and the images are full parallax, meaning no special viewing equipment such as 3D glasses are needed. Just a single, direct light source such as a light-emitting diode (LED) or the sunlight is needed to hit the image at a 90-degree angle to illuminate the 3D effects. The images are not distorted when viewed under night vision goggles.