Faculty Profile: Michael Page

By Lena Rubisova, third-year student, Faculty of Design

Assistant Professor Michael Page.This past January, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) awarded OCAD University’s Michael Page a grant to assist him with his research into haptic holography. Page is working with industry partner Entact Robotics, a specialist in haptic technology devices designed to provide tactile feedback using the sense of touch, and is also leading a team of researchers in the development of digital holography technology that captures holographic data and reconstructs it onto a 3D surface. Combining the two forms of technology could break ground in synthetic reality, as well as the ability to interact with holographic space.

Page, an assistant professor in the Faculty of Art, has been researching holography for 30 years. He teaches a class in 3D visualization and human perception — JOP210: Holography for 3D Visualization — in collaboration with the University of Toronto. The class gives students a chance to study common phenomena in optics and to work in multidisciplinary groups to produce holographic images. Letting students from both the arts and the sciences work together on such projects allows them to explore the possibilities of both types of knowledge in relation to holography. Page explains that developments in digital holography mean that “anything you can get on a computer database you can turn into a hologram.”

Holographic images are reconstructed when light is projected onto the hologram. The hologram is a screen equipped with large quantities of hogels, which are small units of holographic data. The light then replays particular data to create an image, and depending on the angle from which the light is projected onto the screen, or the position of the viewer’s head, different information becomes visible and creates animation. Digital holography means that data for holograms can be made from any image that has been captured digitally. The process of viewing an image without needing glasses or headgear is called auto-stereoscopic viewing. Holography falls into this category because it is visible to the naked eye and simplifies the process of interacting with holographic images. Haptic technology creates tools that offer tactile feedback to the person using the tools as though they were actually interacting with something. Workers at MIT published a number of papers in the 1990s that talked about combining haptics and holography, but it wasn’t until recently that the two technologies were sufficiently developed to make this viable.

Still from a 3D video about the potential for haptic holography technology.The aim of the FedDev grant is to support research into the development of haptic holography systems for multiple purposes, including medical and educational programs. For example, advances in this technology might allow for the creation of 3D images that extend into space and that respond to touching by a haptic tool, such as a joystick. Using the images to the right, Page explains that “the advantage of haptic holographic workstations is that if this is the holographic layer my hand is where it would be if it were holding that syringe.” This is useful because current haptic devices create a disconnect between the screen that the eye is looking at and the actual workspace where the hands and haptic devices are working.

Another aspect of Page’s research combines tactile holography with a Kinect sensor, the kind currently used by Xbox 360 that senses the angle from which a person is looking at a hologram. Theoretically, if Kinect sensors can detect the direction at which a person is looking at an image, the computer-generated image should coincide with what is projected through the hologram. One of the potential benefits of this aspect of Page’s research is tangibility. Digital images combined with holographic technology should appear tangible in space and can change in response to the viewer’s interaction with the image as though they were actually there, rather than remaining an image on a screen.

Still from a 3D video about the potential for haptic holography technology.

“Primarily, the Fed Dev project is about interactivity,” says Page, adding that many commonly used devices, such as the Apple iPad and the latest gaming systems, are going in this direction as well. This sort of interactivity might eventually see researchers like Page projecting a holographic image of a body where the haptic device works as a scalpel with digital projections of blood appearing as the scalpel cuts through, along with different views of the body being shown depending on the position of the viewers head. Although the technology is still in its development stages, its potential is extraordinary.

Last Modified:1/24/2012 12:57:30 PM



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