It's one of the most memorable scenes in science fiction: a 3-D, holographic Princess Leia, begging for Obi-Wan's help. America's spy services have just plunked down $58 million to make it real. And if you think the gadget-makers behind this "Synthetic Holographic Observation" effort weren't inspired by Star Wars, well, take a look at the presentation from one of the companies that bid for the 3-D holographic displays. On page four, there's Leia, telling Kenobi that he's her only hope.
The military and intelligence communities have been working with holographic and 3-D displays for years. Air Force analysts, for instance, use stereoscopic glasses to pick out which targets to bomb. But the tools have been of limited utility. Some required specialty eyewear; others only displayed a few colors, or could only been seen from a few angles.