While I’m sure this device, if used in close proximity to a human being, would result in an industrial-strength sunburn, I welcome any technology that brings us close to a real-life holodeck.

The Aerial Burton is a 3D display that works by firing a laser pulse into a 3D scanner, and then ionizing the air at specific points, which makes a very bright point of plasma, and by creating several of these points, the device can create a 3D object or text.

While the full potential for such a display has yet to be seen, Asano suggests it could be used as a communication aid in the event of a disaster by communicating evacuation routes. I can certainly see the entertainment usage, though of course, the color of the plasma will always be a sort of whitish-blue with current technology, as the color is dependent on the composition of the gas that it’s being created in, and the temperature:

CF4: blue

SF6: white blue

SiF4: light blue

SiCl4: light blue

Cl2: whitish green

CCl4: whitish green

H2: pink

O2: pale yellow

N2: red to yellow

Br2: reddish

He: red to violet

Ne: brick red

Ar: dark red

I don’t see a good way to get around the “color” restriction right now, since the plasma is so hot and being created in a homogenous mix of nitrogen and oxygen, but this is only the first iteration of this technology, so hopefully there’s some clever way to change the color of the emitted light that I haven’t considered. Giant full-color 3D volumetric displays would revolutionize the way we design displays for concerts.