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Every young fan of “Star Wars” has a favorite lightsaber color. Darth Vader’s red? Maybe Luke Skywalker’s and Yoda’s green? Although this type of discussion often takes place in fan conventions, Utah-based researchers have found a way to bring lightsaber duels to life. Well, sort of. Using hologram technology, the researchers have managed to manufacture and develop “natural” lightsabers, which have “luminous beams” as well.

Moving to another top-rated sci-fi franchise, Brigham Young University researchers showed how they could engineer “real-life” laser battles between miniature models of a Klingon ship and Star Trek’s USS Enterprise. The little scene they put on display even had “photon torpedoes,” which could clearly be seen flying through mid-air.

Dan Smalley, an electrical engineer professor and lead researcher said that the things in the scenes they created were real. He claimed that there was nothing that was computer-generated. He further stated that the display wasn’t like the movies where the photon torpedoes or lightsabers are never really there in the physical space. Instead, he said that what they display actually exists in that space.

3D printers for light

Smalley’s next chapter in his study garnered a lot of national attention when he came out with it three years ago. His team, at the time, found out how to draw free-floating, screen-less objects in space. Researchers call these objects “optical trap displays”. They’re created when a laser beam traps one particle in the air and then moves it around. It then leaves a laser-illuminated path behind that seamlessly moves around in mid-air, similar to the lighting in 3D printers.

In their next project, they attempted to produce simple and clear animations in mid-air, which, in turn, helped allow them to create holographic-like virtual objects.