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Sci-fi glass displays become reality

Sunday, July 03, 2011

A Fremont company won the Oscar of technology last week: The annual R&D 100 Award was awarded to a company that invented Media Glass, an invention right out of the movie "Minority Report."

In the movie, actor Tom Cruise sees right through the images on his monitor. While it might sound like science fiction to some people, it's not sci-fi to Ted Sun.

"I see in movies like Avatar and Minority Report that people put information on glass," Sun said. "This technology can do it now."

Sun is talking about Media Glass, an invention that combines an invisible laser beam with a thin nano-technology film. One layer turns red in a spot of laser light, while another turns green and a third turns blue. Each layer is made of particles so tiny that visible light passes right through them.

If you coated your car with this film, it could display a see-through dashboard or even a GPS map.

The image is being drawn by a laser beam, but the colors that are visible is not the color of the laser. The laser light by itself is invisible; the glow that is visible is the nano-material phosphor responding to the laser light.

The coating can be put on any material, whether it's clear or not. Since it is completely absorbed by the coating, the laser beam doesn't pass through. In fact, the film could be built right into an automobile's windshield.

General Motors and Disney have signed on to test the product -- General Motors in its vehicles, and Disney in its theme parks.

A related technology sandwiches holographic material inside glass for use with a non-laser projection. The innovation is appearing on retail displays such as inside one shop window in San Anselmo.

Sun is the founder of Sun Innovations, a small startup in Fremont that seems to come up with a new application every day.

Sun's next milestone? To make this new technology respond to human touch.

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