by Gary Rainville

Nearly three dozen companies participated in the Emerging Companies Summit, held during NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference in May. Below is one in a series of company profiles showcasing how startups are innovating with GPU technology.

While holograms have been featured in commercial entertainment for decades, RealView Imaging Ltd. is taking the idea seriously ­­– from science fiction to real life.

The Israel-based startup has created a revolutionary hardware and optics system that projects true 3D holographic images into free space. These images can be interacted with by literally touching the image with, for example, a finger or tool. The holograms can be moved, marked, cross-sectioned and cropped.

RealView co-founder Shaul Gelman at ECS

And these aren’t grainy images of Star Wars’ Princess Leia coming out of R2-D2. Rather, they’re high-resolution, full-color holograms projected in real time.

Creating these is a huge computational challenge, according to Shaul Gelman, company co-founder and head of research and development. So RealView relies on a powerful cluster of NVIDIA Tesla GPUs with an NVIDIA Quadro card to run its sophisticated algorithms.

Using RealView’s proprietary optics system, the resulting holograms are projected to viewing angles of unprecedented width that appear to physically float in free air. And since you can see them in actual space, you can easily interact with them.

One RealView prototype supports the medical imaging market, specifically the areas of cardiology and obstetrics. Using the system, cardiologists can determine precisely how well an artificial heart valve might fit in a patient’s heart. An obstetrician can mark and measure the growth of a fetus’s femoral bone, for example – all in the open air of an examination room.

RealView’s system has obvious applications in a variety of other fields where seeing and interacting with objects would be useful, such as signage, gaming, architecture and engineering. Adding aural or tactile qualities are more speculative areas of inquiry in the development of holograms that RealView’s Gelman would only hint at.

Perhaps the family of the future won’t just watch Star Trek reruns on TV, but be able to interact with them from the holodeck.

[Update]: You can now watch Shaul Gelman’s presentation at ECS on the GTC On-Demand site.