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Volkswagen Group takes minority stake in 3D holography company SeeReal Technologies

Volkswagen has acquired a minority stake in the technology company SeeReal Technologies. This participation will secure access for the Group to future-oriented augmented reality in the field of display technologies for the automobile.

SeeReal’s solution to 3D displays is based on true interference-based holography. Holographic 3D (H3D) designs, systems and prototypes of SeeReal are not based on mere imaging on flat screens or semi-transparent mirrors; SeeReal solutions reconstruct 3D objects and complex 3D scenes in real space.

Instead of trying to construct a large and real-time “classic” H3D display to generate 99% information invisible to viewers of such displays, SeeReal turned to another and proprietary solution: Limit the information to what observers can see at a certain point in time—each eye during each frame.

I.e., SeeReal technology limits the holographic information to what observers of a H3D display, or in fact of any real life environment, can see at a given point in time and space. By limiting the information to eye boxes or Viewing Windows, one also limits the area on the physical display, the hologram, required to encode information for individual portions of the 3D scene.

SeeReal says that in essence, it discretizes the hologram. Each 3D scene point can be encoded in a very small individual hologram which are then super-positioned to generate the total 3D scene. SeeReal established the term “Sub-holograms” for these hologram fractions.

For a typical 3D-scene with Full HD resolution, around 2 million Sub-holograms are computed and combined to a hologram frame. Accordingly H3D video streams contain full holographic representations of 3D scenes each frame. The visible 3D world is always present, no matter where a viewer looks at the display—same as in real life. An H3D display is a window onto the 3D world; objects can be far behind or even in front of the window.

SeeReal’s H3D display prototypes deploy these fundamental and proprietary principles of Viewing Windows and Sub-holograms for real-time interactive and HD resolution 3D reconstructions. Real-time code generation has been ported to various platforms, including CPU, GPU and FPGA.

Bild_Subholograms-1

The research project will provide the Volkswagen Group with key know-how to make driving even safer and more convenient in the future.

Potentially hazardous situations on the road will be projected into the driver’s environment in three dimensions; “touchable” displays will be suspended instead of controls; partners and telephone conversations will appear as holograms; passengers will be able to play hovering three-dimensional Tetris—these visions could soon become reality in the automobile.

Head-up displays of the type already in the marketplace can project their information within a limited space. In contrast, in the full-electric Volkswagen ID.3, which is to be sold from 2020 onwards, information will be projected into the driver’s field of vision, with direct links to the driver’s environment, via an augmented reality head-up display.

In future generations of head-up displays, three-dimensional presentations will even merge seamlessly with the environment, allowing innovative display concepts both in the distance and near to the driver. In future, conventional dashboards may become obsolete and vehicles may be controlled via virtual switches and displays. All occupants would be able to use “touchable” three-dimensional displays with natural vision for information or interaction.

Research in this area is being carried out by the company SeeReal Technologies and is progressing.

Augmented reality will be a key component in future mobility and interaction concepts. This is why we are focusing on key technologies such as holography which will present this new reality in a fascinating way. We will be providing the automotive requirements for this exciting project and the know-how in 3-D technology will be contributed by SeeReal.

—Dr. Axel Heinrich, Head of Volkswagen Group Innovation

Research cooperation between Volkswagen Group Innovation and the technology company, with locations in Dresden and Luxembourg, already started at the end of 2018.

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