A holographic interface is a way to interact with electronics without coming into physical contact with the machine. Though the holographic interface was only developed in the 2010s, it is often compatible with contemporary computer systems and programs. The creation of the hologram is a relatively complex component of the interface, whereas the ability of the interface to recognize the commands of the user is achieved through the use of motion detectors, a technology that has been in use for decades.
In order to create a holographic interface, a special holographic projector is needed that can display a three dimensional image in space. The projector works like a monitor, but the images it displays are displayed about 6 inches (15 cm) in front of it. These images are only visible to people who are within a predetermined range, usually within a few feet (about a meter) of the screen and at a fairly direct angle to it. This range can be adjusted, depending on the intended use of the holographic interface. People standing outside of the viewing angle are unable to see the interface, which can add extra security to these devices.
To interact with the holographic interface, a person touches the holographic image just as they would a real object. Though there is nothing there, an infrared sensor detects what the user is touching and uses this information to send instructions to the electronic device. The controls on the holographic interface can be used in the same way as physical buttons, keyboards, a computer mouse, or a touch screen but do not require the physical manipulation of any object.
There are a number of practical applications for a holographic interface. One use for this technology is in areas that must be kept sterile, such as operating rooms. Doctors often use computers to control instruments and to make adjustments on various controls. In a sterile environment such as this, the doctor cannot easily switch between touching a non-sterile computer interface to touching sterile surgical instruments or the patient. Using a holographic interface, a doctor can use the computer and then continue with the surgery because there is no physical matter in the hologram that could contaminate the patient.
A holographic interface is also useful in situations where a traditional computer interface, such as a touch screen, is impractical. There is no glare on a hologram, which makes it easy to view in all different types of light. Pilots at high altitudes may be able to make use of these interfaces instead of computer screens, which can sometimes be difficult to read at altitude.