Microsoft stores the movie ‘Superman’ in a quartz crystal

The Project Silica of Microsoft Research and Warner Brothers has allowed the 1978 ‘Superman’ movie to be stored in a quartz crystal. They are 75.6 GB of information.

The storage of cinematographic archives has become, over the decades, a problem. For anyone who has seen one of those huge rooms of the distributors where the rolls of footage of hundreds or thousands of films are stored, doubt assails him from the first moment. How will it be possible to store and conserve all this material in the future? Discover the Project Silica.

Like the rest of the majors, Warner Brothers seeks solutions for this headache. One of them goes through the collaboration with Microsoft Research within the framework of Project Silica. Researchers at the Redmond company have created a solution for the production company that would save a lot of space and also facilitate storage conditions.

Project Silica has developed a method to store digital data in a quartz crystal. How have they done it? With a set of technologies. On one side the crystal is etched with optical patterns, by laser. The light affects the quartz in different ways and researchers have used this to encode the information they had at their disposal. In this case it was the iconic movie ‘Superman’, the old one, that of 1978.

This was the first part of the project. Because one thing is to have the Superman movie encoded in a quartz crystal and another, very different and really necessary, is to be able to read the information. The data is contained in quartz in three dimensions, such as diffraction networks and light deformations. With this it is possible to store 75.6 GB in a piece of glass of 7.5 cm x 7.5 cm x 2 mm.

Project Silica

Recover Quartz Information

Storage has evolved a lot over the last decades. Each time with more complex coding methods. This implies an effort to read the data, which has to be agile, because if it is not useless.

Some projects have even looked to DNA as the way of storing the future. The problem is that writing and reading are still precarious in this kind of helical way based on biology. In the case of the quartz crystal created in Project Silica, the reading is also complex.

To read the information, MIcrosft Research has created a series of machine learning algorithms, which decode the images and patterns created by light, which drains along the glass.

If the initiative continues, Warners Bros will no longer need in the future those huge stores where celluloid rolls accumulate stored under measured conditions of temperature and humidity. While Microsoft will have a new way of storing data, something fundamental for its cloud services.

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