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You can now play Star Wars-like holographic chess for real

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Holograms and volumetric displays have come a long way in the past five or so years, and now you can own your own piece of sci-fi lore.

 

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While 4k TV’s, rollable TV’s, and the Oculus Rift Quest 2 are just now breaking out onto the tech scene, none of them feel like the future we were promised. Voxiebox — a holographic display like you would find in Star Wars or Star Trek — is a real device today and feels much more like the future than any display technology you’ve seen.

 

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The Voxiebox from Voxon, a volumetric display company, began making the rounds last year, but it made an appearance last night at The Games Forum, a small event in New York City where independent game developers have attendees test and provide feedback on their products. Though the event was small and many of the games were very early builds, there were some notable experiences, such as Slashdash, an extremely fun two-on-two game of capture the flag as played by sword-wielding, teleporting ninjas. Simple Machine was there as well, creator of the acclaimed music puzzler Circadia, showing off an early build of a new numbers-based puzzle game. What was instantly noticeable as unique – even without having to play it – was the Voxiebox volumetric display.

 

Are you game?!

 

In various sci-fi movies and video games, there are scenes where the characters are playing chess, except in place of standard plastic or wooden pieces, the characters are shuffling holograms around the board. Perhaps the most notable instance of this is in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, in a scene where R2-D2 and Chewbacca are playing a holographic chess-like game called Dejarik. This is essentially the Voxiebox. Videos and pictures don’t do the device justice — the chessboard image featured above is perhaps the best photograph of the box that demonstrates what it does. It’s a display you have to see for yourself in order to really be amazed.

 

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The technology behind the Voxiebox is much simpler than it would seem. The device contains a projector that beams an image up onto a screen, which in turn vibrates up and down at a rapid speed. The rapid vibration allows the image to appear as though it’s a 3D asset. If that’s tough to picture, think of it as similar to those light trail pictures that frequently pop up on social networks.

You can circle around the Voxiebox and the image quality never wavers or fades out of view. The only way the image will disappear is if you look at the display’s base head-on; you’re supposed to look at it from an overhead angle similar to the camera orientation in games like Diablo. So far, the image resolution is quite low — it’s difficult to make out small or complex models, as was noticeable when testing out the shooter game Voxatron. Regardless of the resolution, you can hold a gamepad in your hand and control a holographic image. It felt much, much more like the future than the Oculus Rift, which itself is a cool device, but essentially just replaces the mobility of a computer’s mouse with the mobility of your head.

 

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Voxiebox developer Sean Kean told me that the device is not exactly for in-home consumer use just yet. The team is aiming to get the device into arcades, the irony of which — a futuristic piece of technology being placed in a largely defunct venue — Kean is fully aware. If the resolution can be increased, the Voxiebox would make an incredible medium on which to display board games, which would be much better than the flood of digital recreations of board games being released on iOS and Android.

For now, if you’d really like to see the Voxiebox in person, you can follow the team on Facebook and hopefully catch wind of the device’s next appearance.

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