Nintendo Reviving Holographic Storage

Nintendo, the Japanese maker of the market-leading Wii videogame console, co-signed for a patent on holographic storage and may be gearing up for development of this high-capacity storage concept. Nintendo signed the patent with Inphase Technologies, but bringing holographic storage to market won't be easy.

Nintendo, one of the world's top three videogame console and handheld device makers, apparently is preparing to invest some big money into developing holographic storage.
A patent for holographic storage was recently co-signed by the Japanese entertainment hardware and software company, which is a clear indication that the console manufacturer is investigating new methods of data storage for future projects.
Holographic storage is a sector of the solid-state disk market with interesting potential. But development appears to have come to a plateau, since only a couple of companies have been working on trying to bring it to market.
Inphase Technologies is by far the largest single developer of holographic storage, but it has recently suffered some setbacks and had been laying off staff, according to industry insiders.
Inphase and Nintendo filed jointly for the patent in March 2007. The patent describes the use of "miniature flexure-based scanners for angle multiplexing" as the key component in developing holographic storage. The patent was issued in February by the U.S. Patent Office.
Inphase, a Bell Labs spinoff, says on its Web site that it has the goal of becoming "the first company to bring holographic data storage technology to market."
"When you look at a holograph, you see an image. When you look at it from a different angle, you see a different image," Dean Klein, vice president of memory system development at Micron Technology, told me.
Micron is a long-time maker of NOR and NAND flash memory and has done quite a bit of research into the viability of holographic storage.
"Likewise, there is a material that has the ability to store multiple images that are accessed by looking at it from a different point of view. You have a crystal of this magic material, usually called Lithium niobate. Different regions on that three-dimensional crystal store images; you access them by a laser scanner," Klein said. "It's not a simple process. The magic is in the material."
"They're [Inphase] asking an awful lot of a material that has not been well-developed. I suspect they're having a lot of trouble getting this to market," he said.
Nintendo's Wii home videogame console system has been No. 1 in the market since fall 2007, according to Vgchartz.com. Microsoft (Xbox 360) and Sony (PlayStation) are the followers in marketshare.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he...