Artists turn Star Wars into reality

Sarah Jackets and Chris Helson
Sarah Jackets and Chris Helson

Two Galloway artists, who managed to turn an idea in George Lucas’ Star Wars film into reality, are set to use a £100k grant to develop it into a commercial product.

With help from Business Gateway Dumfries & Galloway, Chris Helson and Sarah Jackets, of Helson and Jackets Technology Ltd, secured the SMART: SCOTLAND grant in September, and will spend the next 12 months developing a commercial prototype of their ‘Help Me Obi’ 3D video technology.

The invention, which was initially created for an art project in 2008, can project 360 degree, moving 3D images that appear to float, essentially recreating the iconic scene where Princess Leia appears before Luke Skywalker as a talking hologram.

Their new product could revolutionise how businesses promote their products, and fundamentally change how medical students learn and museum’s exhibit artefacts. It also has the potential to transform video conferencing, creating virtual boardrooms or gatherings.

Chris, based near Newton Stewart, said: “If we hadn’t gone to Business Gateway 18 months ago I don’t think we’d have fully realised the scale of the opportunity, one where we could be operating a global business. Our adviser helped us develop our business model, highlighted potential funding streams and routes to market and provided advice regarding intellectual property. He also connected us to Interface, Heriot Watt University, and Scottish Enterprise.

“Now with the SMART: SCOTLAND grant in place alongside our ScotEDGE award we have the funding we need to bring in subcontractors to help us turn ‘Help Me Obi’ into a demonstrable prototype which we hope will either attract further investment so we can scale manufacturing in Scotland, or attract a partner to commercialise it.”

Angus Robertson, Adviser, Business Gateway, said: “Chris and Sarah are video and image specialists, producing large scale installations in public spaces. They came to us for advice, and by working closely with us their enterprise is now one of the few technology start-up companies to be accepted onto Scottish Enterprise’s High Growth portfolio each year. The intensive support they will now receive will move Helson and Jackets Technology Ltd closer to becoming a global name.”

With Chris’ background in design and engineering coupled with Sarah’s expertise in film making and new media art, the couple decided to join forces and established their business in 2001. Since then they have produced a range of installations that explore expanded or dislocated space, causality, and disorder.

Inspiration for the ‘Help Me Obi’ project came from world-renowned Scottish scientist, James Clerk Maxwell, and a Zoetrope into which the physicist had inserted lenses to make an image float.

Determined to create a modern version, Chris and Sarah’s Initial experiments produced an abstract image that flickered heavily. In 2014, the duo had a breakthrough and were able to stabilise and control the light.

Since then interest in their device has rocketed, with appearances on C5’s Gadget Show and a Saltire Foundation trip to Silicon Valley where Chris meet with representatives from Facebook, Google, EA – Electronic Arts, and Pixar.

Chris said: “Going to California really cemented the commercial possibilities for our technology. People were very interest in what we were doing, as it has never been done before. When you stand looking at the image floating in front of you it’s as if it is alive, and you connect with it in a totally different way than you would if it were a 2D or 3D film or video. Because it is not immersive, like VR goggles are, you’re looking in on the object and can see it from all angles as you move around a room.”

Helson and Jackets Technology Ltd ( will display ‘Help Me Obi’ on October 5th as part of Dumfries & Galloway’s Business Week 2016. To book a space at the event call your local Business Gateway office on 01387 808738. Spaces are limited.

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