From pixel to voxel. A dimensional leap.

What is a voxel and why do we start to hear about it more and more?

The word PIXEL was coined more than 50 years ago.

The Legend tells that it was Frederic Crockett Billingsley, an American engineer, who officially used it for the first time. Billingsley was working developing digital photography techniques for NASA and in 1965 he published this word in two writings as the portmanteaus (mix)  of "Picture" and "Element". 

 Picture + Element = PIXEL.

During the last 50 years we have got used to this word and it has become increasingly popular thanks to the proliferation of photography and digital imaging.

Now fully into the 21st century, we are faced with a new term that is gaining more and more popularity and is emerging as the successor to the Pixel. THE VOXEL. This word is also a portmanteau:

Volume + Element = VOXEL.

What is a voxel and why do we start to hear about it more and more?

The voxel is defined as each of the basic elements or "points" that define a volumetric reality. In other words, VOXEL is to 3D what PIXEL is to 2D.
The VOXEL exists in another higher dimension.

While the squared minded PIXEL can only exist in the world of two dimensions, the powerful new VOXEL has jumped out of this plane world and has been projected onto ours. While the pixel is trapped in our Instagram photos, the VOXEL has decided to gone for a walk with us to the third dimension.

The most interesting part is that the VOXEL, as a concept, has been around for as long as its father, the PIXEL. It was used to define volumes in virtual planes, video games, topographic and medical scanners. But it always ended up being represented by pixels in front of our eyes. Let's not fool ourselves. 3D movies and virtual reality glasses use the old trick of stereophotogrammetry to trick our brain into giving it the impression of depth and volume. But these images are actually built by our old friend the Pixel. So, although the virtual beings of videogames and Pixar movies are still trapped in their two-dimensional world. They have not been able to make the leap to coexist with us in the third dimension ... 

...until now.

Image Courtesy of LedPulse Technologies. 

A new format in the house.

For a pixel to exist in time and space it needs a two-dimensional plane or matrix (X, Y). For a VOXEL to exist in our world, a matrix made of 3 dimensions is required. This means, X, Y, Z. So, to reproduce volumetric images in real 3D, it would be necessary to invent a new format that contains these three dimensions with VOXELS distributed in the three axes. This theoretical format should have enough VOXELS density to define recognizable three-dimensional images.

Well, this format already exists. It's called "Volumetric Display".

Dragon O. Karben, Germany 2019

Just as the VOXEL is the dimensional evolution of the PIXEL, the volumetric display is the evolution of the two-dimensional screens. By superimposing 2D layers, PIXELS magically transformed into VOXELS, bringing them to a new dimension. The invisible space that separates them, allows them to be viewed in-depth, acquiring the ability to project volume. If the density of the VOXELS is sufficient, recognizable volumetric images can be defined. And just as in the case of PIXELS, the higher the density, the greater the definition.

For now, only a couple of companies in the world have successfully manufactured high-density volumetric displays from LED VOXELS. Its commercialization and expansion are just beginning. But it promises to be a growing revolution in the world of audiovisual technology.

Long live VOXEL.

High Density of voxels (Dragon O)

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