Sharing high-tech holograms.

From across the room, it appears nothing is there at all. But as you approach, the three-dimensional image of a microscope wondrously arises out of the pedestal.

But that isn't all. You can look into the microscope as well and see the minute details of a computer chip. But it isn't really there at all. It's all a hologram.

"Yesterday a little boy brought his hand up to the microscope to try to focus it," Jeff Allen said, both amused and pleased by the absent-minded gesture.

Allen, a pioneer in this new technology, has brought an exhibit of holographic art to the Solano County Fair. In addition to seeing the various holograms and videotapes on holography, fairgoers have the opportunity to talk with Allen about how it's done.

"People look at it and say, 'It's so magical!' and they want to know how it's produced," Allen said. "But to appreciate it, you don't need to know how it's produced."

However, when pressed, Allen explains holography in layman's terms as well as anyone could. Essentially, holography duplicates the process with which we see through our eyes.

A hologram is created when one laser beam bounces off an object and meets with a second laser beam, he said. The collision of the two beams creates an interference pattern from which all the optical information reflecting from the object, including depth, can be recorded on film.

The result is the remarkably clear three-dimensional quality of holographic works of art like "Microscope."

Holograms made from motion picture film have a pleasantly eerie effect on their viewers. In one such work of art, "Kiss II," the viewer takes three steps around the hologram, while the clearly animated holographic image of a woman stares back and blows a kiss, finishing with a comely smile and a wink.

Allen explains that "Kiss II" is actually 1,800 holograms, each recorded from a single frame of motion picture film. The fair's exhibit has about a half dozen examples of such holograms, including "Wagon," a segment of resurrected celluloid from 1930.

"This is a form of holography which will interface with other forms of media," he said, conjuring the possibility of feature-length holographic movies.

Allen said it took him 20 minutes to find the image in the first hologram he ever saw. Now, holograms are readily visible and far more common, and through his work in the field, Allen can take some of the credit for this.

He had a hand in developing dichromate, a film which makes a holographic image more easily visible under white light, and a holographic embossing technique, which made mass-produced holograms possible.

Australia now puts tiny holograms on its currency, and other countries are considering doing the same.

Allen is optimistic about the future of holography's possible applications, ranging from product labeling to record album covers to information storage. He said a hologram can store up to 10 billion bits of information per square inch.

"It's been said that all the information in the Library of Congress can fit on the surface the size of a sugar cube," he said.

Reaction by fairgoers has been positive.

"It's really a treat to see people's reactions," Allen said. "When most people look into the future, they get depressed, but when they see this, they come out of here inspired, in a good mood and more hopeful about the future.