Beyond Fiction: Star Wars Hologram Technology

Are hologram projections possible beyond the Star Wars world?

While Facetime and Zoom may seem sufficient for our daily needs, the Star Wars franchise took communication to the next level, transmitting messages across the galaxy with hologram projection technology. Repeatedly used throughout the films, the holograms come in all shapes and sizes, transmitting both live and recorded messages. For decades following the film’s release, scientists were left wondering whether hologram images were only possible in fiction; however, they now find themselves exploring the capabilities of this fascinating, rapidly developing technology (1).

Holograms in the Star Wars franchise

A hologram is a three-dimensional projection of an object suspended in the air, requiring no special equipment to be seen by the naked eye. An ideal hologram should realistically present the target object from all angles, moving naturally with rotation (2). The first hologram was created by Dennis Gabor, a Hungarian-British physicist in 1948, who won a Nobel Prize in Physics in 1971 for his innovative use of light waves to create 3-D images. While his initial goal was to improve the resolution of electron microscopes, his innovation sparked research in the field of holography (3). 

While scientists are aching to develop a realistic 3-D hologram projection, they have developed many alternatives to mimic this effect. The first is a 2-D optical illusion, produced using lasers and holographic film to create a permanent record of how light reflects off an object (4). To create the image, a laser beam is split into two waves: a reference wave and an object wave. The object wave reflects off the target object before arriving at the holographic film, while the reference beam hits the film directly. The intersection of the two waves creates an interference pattern—the coded image of the object (5). When a laser is sent back through this film, the interference pattern manipulates the light direction, creating the illusion of a 3-D hologram (6). However, this technique has certain limitations due to the true 2-D nature of the projection, including a limited viewing angle of about thirty degrees, as well as relatively static projections (6). 

Volumetric Display is another example of a technology scientists have developed to produce holographic projections. Nature describes this technology as “a high-speed Etch a Sketch,” because rather than projecting the image into the air, the image is drawn in real-time (6). A set of laser beams is used to manipulate a single particle of plant fiber, typically cellulose, into moving in a desired pattern. A second set of lasers in red, green, and blue colors illuminate the particle with visible light along its trajectory. The particle moves faster than can be seen by the naked eye, creating the illusion of a solid line through the air (6). Unlike the 2-D technology, Volumetric Display gives the projection a realistic look from any angle. The capability of rapidly changing the trajectory of the particle also allows scientists to create the illusion of the hologram moving (6). However, Volumetric Display technology has its limitations. The images created using this technology are still very small, only a few millimeters in length. The particle’s system is also easily destabilized, meaning even a slight breeze could throw off the particle’s trajectory on a larger-scale hologram (6).

Diagram of the Volumetric Display Process

While scientists may be taking steps toward true hologram projections, it seems there is a long way to go before we can match Star Wars’ level of communication with this technology. However, holograms not only would bring science-fiction fans’ dreams to reality, but they would also open doors in fields such as healthcare, retail, and entertainment (2). Rather than typical 2-D medical scans, hologram technology could revolutionize medical imaging, creating a complete visualization of organs for physicians. In retail, holograms could be used for advertising and marketing products. Soon, holograms might even replace musical artists at concerts, changing the entertainment industry completely (5). As these technologies develop further, we may begin to see the Star Wars world come to life.


  1. Wainwright, J. (2023, December 20). The Hologram Technology in Star Wars, Explained. CBR. Retrieved from
  2. (n.d.). How are holograms being applied to our daily lives? LamasaTech. Retrieved from
  3. (n.d.). Exploring Hologram Technology: Understanding How it Works. HoloConnects. Retrieved from
  4. Ashford, J. (2019, November 15). Could Star Wars-style holograms soon be a reality? The Week. Retrieved from
  5. Grubina, M. (2021, February 3). Holograms in Real Life: How the Technology Works and Industry Use Cases. Respeecher. Retrieved from
  6. Gibney, E. (2018, January 24). Physicists create Star Wars-style 3D projections — just don’t call them holograms. Nature. Retrieved from