Holographic displays have been tantalizing humanity ever since Dennis Gabor came up with the idea over 60 years ago, but you still won't see many of them outside of sci-fi movies and carefully constructed trade show exhibits. One seemingly promising new technique for creating holograms comes from IMEC over in Belgium, where researchers are working to create a nanoscale system of moving pixels. Measuring half a micron squared in area, these so-called pixels are used to reflect laser light and thereby generate 3D visuals. The pixels closer to the light interfere with it one way and the ones further away in another, so small nanometer distances between them are what generates the image for the human eye. The eventual goal is to build MEMS structures out of silicon and germanium that allow for the pixels to move back and forth like pistons, which in turn would permit for the projection of 3D video as well.

For now, the IMEC team has put together a prototype imprinted with a nanoscale pattern just to show that the concept is viable. They're aiming to produce a motion-capable proof of concept midway through 2012. Given the complexity and cost of their method, it doesn't look likely to be replacing HDTVs any time soon, but you have to give credit to the research team for coming up with a suitably futuristic way to make holograms: with lasers and nanotechnology. Philip K. Dick would be proud.