Holographic Versatile Disc (HVD) technology may still sound like science fiction, but it has just edged a little closer to reality after acquiring the support of six Japanese industry heavyweights.
Fuji Photo, CMC Magnetics Corporation, Nippon Paint Co, Optware Corporation, Pulstec Industrial and TOAGOSEI have announced they are behind the venture, and claim that the technology could come to market soon after 2006. So, with the battle between new disc formats Blu-ray and HD-DVD still raging, consumers may have an alternative to both, sooner than they might have imagined.
The concept behind HVD is something called collinear holography which combines a reference laser and signal laser on a single beam, creating a three-dimensional hologram of data fringes. These fringes, the Alliance purports, enable discs the same size as DVDs to store more than one terabyte of data (1,000GB) or roughly 200 times the capacity of a single layer DVD. Data transfer rates are also claimed to be very high at over 1Gbit/sec (40 times faster than DVD).
By comparison, single layer Blu-ray discs hold just 25GB of data and dual layer 50GB. HD-DVD is even smaller, holding 15GB on single layer and 30GB on dual layer. Of course Sony has demonstrated an eight layer Blu-ray disc with a capacity of 200GB, but even that is just one fifth of that capacity that HVD hopes to achieve. Intriguingly, the HVD Alliance also claims high level compatibility with DVD and CD discs, so you shouldn't have to throw out all your old software.
Now there could be an argument for saying: who needs one terabyte of data when you can store up to 50GB with dual layer Blu-ray? Yet history proves that consumers always manage to fill these new storage capacities and with two hours of HD programming expected to require between 15 and 25GB, there is a compelling argument for HVD.