That Billboard…It’s Alive…!

ZDNet’s “Emerging Technology” blogger Roland Piquepaille points to a New Scientist report that will surely cause immense ripples among advertisers — as well as consumer activists who believe no one should market anything to us without our permission.  How’re you going to stop this?

The night sky could soon be lit up with gigantic three-dimensional adverts, thanks to a Japanese laser display that creates glowing images in thin air.

The system is being developed by the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST) in Tokyo, in collaboration with Burton Inc and Keio University.

“We believe this technology may eventually be used in applications ranging from pyrotechnics to outdoor advertising,” says a spokesman for AIST. According to Burton Inc, the technology might also be used for emergency distress signals or even temporary road signs.

The display utilises an ionisation effect which occurs when a beam of laser light is focused to a point in air. The laser beam itself is invisible to the human eye but, if the intensity of the laser pulse exceeds a threshold, the air breaks down into glowing plasma that emits visible light.


The researchers behind the demonstration system plan to upgrade it to a higher pulsing rate, which should produce more dots and so smoother images. Future versions should also include moving pictures and AIST claims it should be possible to scale the system up to produce displays of any size. However, only white flashpoints can be created so a colour display will not be possible.

If you flip to the New Scientist story, don’t miss the comment thread it generated. “Peter” had this to say:

The technology sounds fantastic, but use it constructively, like at airports for approach vectors or to mark lanes in the air for our new flying cars or for other safety or emergency information applications. Satellites could project grid points above the ocean for search and rescue, yatch racing markers at night, etc etc.

The minute i see a nike swoosh or ‘enjoy coke’ in my night sky is the minute I begin researching homemade GPS guided nuclear weapons.

starwars4_1.jpgHow dangerous is the beam, what would happen if a bird or light plane just happened to get in the way, does it produce ozone? what are the long term side effects? wiill the beam ionise enough air to effectively become a lightning conductor down the beam and into the equipment sending it (if its a nice bright ‘coke’ symbol then we can only hope)? How much power will it really take to project a big 3d coke symbol, probably hundreds or thousands of kilowatts.

“Help us Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re our only hope!”


One thought on “That Billboard…It’s Alive…!

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