Physical 3D Display: Technology for Expansion of Senses


Physical 3D display is the ultimate display technology the human is currently pursuing. Researchers and artists home and abroad are actively developing the technology with various materials such as laser and plasma along with reflection boards, actuators, e-paper, water, or mist. An optics-based 2D flat display has a problem in outdoor spaces due to the influence from the surrounding environment and its conditions such as brightness, while the monotony digital signages tire the users. For these reasons, a need arose for developing a display with novelty and sensitivity of analogue, starting the technology development for a 3D display that can actually be physically deformed.

During the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian mobile phone operator MegaFon installed a large kinetic structure, Mega Faces, in the outdoor area. The kinetic sculpture where each of more than 11,000 pixels protruded individually as in a pin toy was exposed to about 140,000 participants and to media more than 600 times, boosting the brand awareness and favorability at a stroke. The kinetic sculptures that provided the deepest immersion to the viewers at the 2017 Kinetica Art Fair held in the UK or the 3D robotic billboard presented by Coca-Cola at Time Square in New York, which is almost 20m high and consisting of 1,760 moving LEDs, are famous examples of the 3D displays where art and technology are combined for cultural and sensitive values, imprinting on the world the possibility of communication with a new sensitivity.
A 3D display in a polygonal form using the same effect in kinetic art can not only be limited to a platform technique but be integrated with culture and arts contents and thereby expanded to a comprehensive cultural business consisting of contents combined with services with a fairly high growth potential. An America-based company BREAKFAST developed a flip-dot-related physical display and supports patent licensing and prototype development and mass-production, while creating its own brand “Electromagnet Dot Screen” and supplying it to the general market. MIT’s Tangible Media Group ceaselessly presents innovative 3D displays the user can freely operate in a three-dimensional space to intuitively receive information without having to use a specific device.

Meanwhile, only few cases of using the polygonal surface technology can be found in Korea. Many research labs and entrepreneurs are participating in the development; it is clear that a number of challenges lie in the way to the industrialization of the technology due to undefined concepts and structures on physical 3D display and problems of cost, production, and a space for installation. Professor Hong Sung-dae, President of Seokyeong University’s Institute of Virtual Reality Future Fusion Center, stresses: “Physical 3D display can develop into landmark-like convergence contents before we can possibly expect. It also has a feature of a platform, about which the whole world is going wild. Support for the technology development for commercialization must be provided now at the national level, and since the technology is a result from artistic sensitivity and rational technology, the display market should be formed with creators with brilliant minds.”

Recently, the display industry is showing strong growth centering around Asia. Therefore, an increase in the need for physical 3D display and contents for a new cultural industry can easily be expected. Now is the time when interest from domestic creators and startups and investments from the government are required for research on the new material, software development, and the launch of a representative physical 3D display product that can be standardized.