Microsoft and Warner Bros. debut glass-based future of movie archiving

In a technological advancement normally reserved for science fiction, Microsoft has teamed up with Warner Bros. to successfully store and retrieve an entire copy of the 1976 classic Superman: The Movie on a coaster-sized piece of glass using the Redmond company’s Project Silica storage solution. 

Demonstrated as a proof of concept, Project Silica uses “ultrafast laser optics and artificial intelligence to store data in quartz glass,” as explained at Microsoft’s Ignite 2019 keynote.

According to the company’s Innovation Stories blog, “A laser encodes data in glass by creating layers of three-dimensional nanoscale gratings and deformations at various depths and angles.” A 2mm-thick piece of glass is able to hold around 100 layers of these gratings, also known as ‘voxels’ – the 3D equivalent of pixels.

Polarized light is then passed through the glass, which is decoded and read back using machine learning algorithms.

Super storage

Proving almost as indestructible as Superman himself, Microsoft’s hard silica glass survived being boiled, scratched, scoured, demagnetized, microwaved, baked in an oven and more with not a single instance of data loss recorded.

In an effort to safeguard its huge library of historic films (both celluloid and digital), radio shows, TV shows, animated shorts, dailies and more, Warner Bros. approached Microsoft upon learning of its glass-based storage technology.

“For years, they had searched for a storage technology that could last hundreds of years,…