When you look at an ordinary photograph, the image remains the same regardless of how you illuminate it. That’s great if you don’t want any additional realism in your High School Yearbook (seriously, what was I thinking with that shirt? And that haircut??) However, if you would prefer to view those captured memories in more detail, check this out: Reflectance Paper.

Reflectance Paper

Instead of tiny dots of different colours, we have tiny dimples that reflect light in different ways. As you pass the light source over the paper, it reflects light back to the eye depending on the location of the ink of the dimpled pixel. Still confused? Let’s have SCIENCE explain it (actually, his name is James Davis, Associate Professor of Computer Science in the Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz):

If the paper is flat, it will always look flat no matter what you print on it. So the question became how to get the surface of the paper to have geometry to it. With the reflectance paper, for each pixel we have a little dimple that has all angular directions on its surface. Now we can print ink over it in a way that controls the angles of light that will be reflected from each pixel.

Okay, maybe that didn’t help. Here’s a video:

YouTube video

Looking at the Old from every Perspective

Do you get it now? But what is it good for? Museums have expressed a great interest in this technology so Art Historians and Restoration experts are better able to document valuable works of art. Down the road, large storefront banners, souvenirs or artwork could be made with this technology to produce the grand illusion of 3D. Of course they’re not the first – holographic, lenticular and other pseudo-3D displays have been around forever. But, it is one more way 3D has found its home on 2D mediums.

Source: R&D Magazine and UC Santa Cruz