Will Tamblyn and Gavin Smith are mates. When they hang out, they make things. It’s what they do.

A few years ago, they challenged themselves to create a 3D holographic projector – a piece of tech that only existed in science fiction.

Will and Gavin set about building a prototype using an unlikely collection of items: grandad’s lawn mower, an electric drill, gaffer tape, laser pointers, old projectors, a kettle and a sweet potato.

Before long they’d managed to make a small cube of light float in mid-air. They’d created their first voxel (think pixel with volume). Now they needed to make more.

But how did the Voxiebox team get from a sweet potato to one of the world’s most advanced volumetric displays?

Voxiebox is a pretty amazing piece of technology with a simple idea at its heart. Voxiebox projects lots of slices of an object onto a flat screen moving up and down. The screen moves so fast that our brain blends the slices together to create a 3D model made of light - no special glasses or headsets required. Here’s how Gavin explains it…

Will and Gavin now work in a lab full of shiny equipment, but they didn’t start that way. They built the first prototypes for Voxiebox in a garden shed. They started like so many other makers, by pulling things apart, exploring and tinkering.

Will and Gavin’s story is truly inspirational. Hear them tell it from the beginning at TEDxAdelaide.

Will Tamblyn stands in the shed where he and Gavin first prototyped Voxiebox

Will and Gavin eventually reached a point where they needed some more serious equipment to take their Voxiebox prototype to the next level. They got in touch with FabLab Adelaide, a community space that provides cheap access to high-end equipment like 3D printers, laser cutters and CNC machines, as well as an incredible maker community with plenty of advice to share.

Four people surround a Voxiebox playing a video game using handheld controllers

Now, Will and Gavin have joined forces with a team in the United States who were working on a similar kind of volumetric display. Together they are Voxon – check out their website.

The Voxon team are still exploring all the possible uses for Voxiebox. This technology could make a splash in education, advertising, data visualisation, gaming… Perhaps it won’t be long before you have one at home!

In the meantime, get started by making an illusionary hologram to use with your smartphone.

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