University of Michigan awards Photonix Imaging with holography contract for Visible Human and Iceman projects

Toronto 16 July 2002Photonix Imaging Inc., developer of a patented Light Valve technique in digital holography, has been awarded a contract by the University of Michigan (UM) to produce multiple holograms for two globally recognised Life Science endeavours. The Visible Human Project (VHP) and the Iceman Project holograms demonstrate the benefits of use of the Light Valve holographic process in viewing bioinformatic data. The company's process, capable of up to 2' square high-resolution holograms, represents significant holography industry breakthroughs in time, quality, cost, and technique.


Until now, conventional holographic production methods included use of LCD panels. Severely limited by size, resolution, and the contrast ratio of LCD technology, this process resulted in holograms with the familiar fish scale patina. Other methods such as indirect transfer of the data to motion picture film impede client input, are costly and time-consuming. Photonix Imaging's patented process addresses these former barriers to market acceptance.

"High resolution 50 cm x 60 cm holographic masters can now be produced in less than 2 hours from any digital source. Rivalling holograms made from motion picture film, these images have incredible detail, contrast and brightness. Colour separations are automatic, registration is absolute, size, content and colour corrections are made on the fly. Clients now have artistic and interactive freedom to provide input. Inexpensive high-resolution holograms can become commonplace. When our system is fully refined, we project costs for large full colour holograms to be a fraction of their current cost", stated Michael Page, President of Photonix Imaging Inc.

High-resolution hard copies can be especially beneficial when viewing detailed 3D medical data. The ability to have a 3D look around within these complex data sets provides a wealth of information to viewers.

The Visible Human Project holograms originate from 3D data derived from the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine VHP database. These holograms are being produced in conjunction with the Michigan Center for Biological Information (MCBI) at UM, which is also the home of the UM VHP. Content and direction are provided by UM's Dr. Brian Athey and Dr. Emmett Leith, Schlumberger Professor of Engineering, College of Engineering, a world-renowned pioneer in holography and National Medal of Science winner.

Holograms produced from the Iceman Project will allow anthropologists and medical educators an unprecedented opportunity to view extremely rare images of life sciences data, providing the ability to have a 3D look around inside these images. The project bridges international alliances between UM's Dr. Fred Bookstein, UM MCBI; Dr. Brian Athey, Director; and the Austrian Ministry of Culture, Education and Science, Austrian Council for Science and Technological Development; and the Institute for Anthropology, University of Vienna; Dr. Horst Seidler, Scientific Director, and Dr. Dieter zur Nedden of the University of Innsbruck, Austria.

"Dr. Horst Seidler, Dr. Dieter zur Nedden, Dr. Fred Bookstein, Dr. Emmett Leith and I and are very excited by the possibilities that this technology represents. These projects demonstrate an additional dimensional viewing option for Life Sciences data. This method of holography may have wide reaching applications in Bioinformatics and Medical Education", stated Dr. Brian Athey, Director UM MCBI, Director of UM VHP, UM Medical School, and director of both holography projects.

Other recent Photonix Imaging projects include a composite holographic portrait of Pope John Paul II. Since the Pontiff was unable to be present for a traditional holographic portrait, this data originated from multiple digital photographs taken at different angles. Computer software generated a continuous look around view of the scene. Those 250 individual views were synthesised into one 3D scene, forming a seamless animation, which was then fed to the Light Valve printer. The project was commissioned by a local resident to celebrate Toronto's hosting of The World Catholic Youth Congress, scheduled for July 18-28, 2002.

Developed in alliance with Photonics Research Ontario, the application of the Light Valve process forever alters hologram production. The holographic printer technology is comprised of a Spatial Light Modulator, or Light Valve, and specialised optics. It uses a powerful krypton laser as its light source. This "Light Valve Printer" provides the direct link from digital graphics to holography.

The company's patented origination process vastly improves quality, reduces time and cost, all "former" barriers to mass market acceptance of holography. Convergence is driving an ever-increasing demand for the understanding of complex data. Inexpensive holographic hard copies can help to fill that demand. Additional market opportunities include: radiological imaging (MRI-CT), microscopy, military uses, human identification, security, petrochemical, automotive, advertising, entertainment, Computer Aided Design, and artifact replication.

A recent business publication quotes Alton Parrish, analyst at technology consulting firm Business Communications Co. Inc.: "The market for holographic design applications alone is projected at $100 million, with the overall market for high quality holography approaching $1 billion." Photonix Imaging Inc. seeks developmental partners in a variety of markets.

Photonics Research Ontario (PRO) is one of four Ontario Centres of Excellence, funded in part by Ontario's Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation. PRO is dedicated to creating new photonics knowledge and technology, fostering the supply of highly qualified people at all levels, enhancing applications and commercialisation and establishing regional and international collaborations. As part of its mandate to foster strong partnerships with industry and promote growth in photonics research and applications, PRO currently provides interim incubation support to Photonix Imaging Inc.

Leslie Versweyveld

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