Remember the Star Wars scene in which R2D2 projects a three-dimensional image of a troubled Princess Leia delivering a call for help to Luke Skywalker and his allies?

What used to be science fiction is now close to becoming reality thanks to a breakthrough in 3D holographic imaging technology developed at the University of Arizona College of Optical Sciences. Some are saying it could change the business world. I can see clear applications in the virtual office industry.

A team led by optical sciences professor Nasser Peyghambarian developed a new type of holographic telepresence that allows the projection of a three-dimensional, moving image without the need for special eyewear such as 3D glasses or other auxiliary devices.

"Let's say I want to give a presentation in New York," Peyghambarian says. "All I need is an array of cameras here in my Tucson office and a fast Internet connection. At the other end, in New York, there would be the 3D display using our laser system. Everything is fully automated and controlled by computer. As the image signals are transmitted, the lasers inscribe them into the screen and render them into a three-dimensional projection of me speaking."

One of the system's major hallmarks never achieved before is what Peyghambarian's group calls full parallax: "As you move your head left and right or up and down, you see different perspectives. This makes for a very life-like image. Humans are used to seeing things in 3D."

Currently, the telepresence system can present in one color only, but Peyghambarian and his team have already demonstrated multi-color 3D display devices capable of writing images at a faster refresh rate, approaching the smooth transitions of images on a TV screen. These devices could be incorporated into a telepresence set-up in near future.

Can you imagine? Virtual office centers could go beyond video conferencing capabilities to offer holographic conferences. I think this is certainly part of the future of the virtual office. As communications technologies and Internet technologies progress, they always trickle down to the virtual office. Why should holographs be any different?

I've seen companies like Cisco do demonstrations with holographs. It's really mind-blowing. I can definitely see the say when virtual offices offer holograph telepresence services that bring science fiction to reality.