At first glance, Looking Glass Factory’s latest display looks a lot like any other. But once the device is turned on, viewers won’t cling to this misconception for long.
By firing angled beams of light from 100 million point sources at a rate of 60 times per second, the display creates large-scale, three-dimensional holograms of the kind previously only found in science fiction.
The effect is a product of the way the human eye receives and processes information, explained Shawn Frayne, founder and CEO of the Looking Glass Factory, in conversation with Professional technological radar.
“Everything in the rooms we’re in now feels more real than a photograph or video because the light shines with directionality. Our eyes and brains are inundated with many different perspectives of 3D information,” she said.
“Instead of displaying a single perspective like a normal 2D displayand instead of showing two different perspectives as a virtual reality headsetour technology shines with a hundred different perspectives simultaneously, recreating the way light rays bounce around in the real world.”
Looking Glass Factory stands almost alone in the field of group viewable holographic displays; Its new 64-inch model is said to be 50 times larger than any other on the market and 5 times larger than any equivalent system tested in a lab.
But while it operates in a niche within a niche, by demonstrating the technology’s scalability, the company believes it can bring about a generational shift in the way media is consumed. “The idea is to show things in a new light,” Frayne said.
The bigger the better
The new 65-inch 8K holographic display unveiled in June 2022 is the fourth developed by Looking Glass Factory, which has also released 16-inch and 32-inch models, as well as a frame-sized system for personal use.
Reaching this latest milestone is the product of many years of development, dating back to Frayne’s childhood. He got “hooked on the dream of the hologram” at age eight, he said, after seeing the scene in back to the future II when Marty McFly is attacked by the hologram shark.
After spending a few years dabbling with laser technology in high school, Frayne studied holography and physics at MIT and went on to found the Looking Glass Factory in 2014.
“In the early 2010s, there was a lot of energy going from 2D to 3D. people talked about 3d printers in the home and Oculus had just released its first developer kit on Kickstarter,” said Frayne.
“There was a lot of new energy in the belief that 3D was the next step in how people could connect, create and communicate with each other in more realistic ways. I got really excited about that.”
Although every display released by Looking Glass is powered by the same technology, the company is particularly excited about the opportunities offered by the largest, which is the first that can generate life-size human holograms.
The improvement in show quality made possible by the 65-inch model, Frayne told us, came as a shock even to the team itself.
“A 4x quantitative size jump led to a 10-20x experience jump,” he said. “I think the big reason is that it starts to feel less like a device and more like a window into another world. That means you can start having large-scale characters and larger-than-life products.”
As for the upper limits of the technology, Looking Glass Factory believes there is plenty of room for greater scale. It is already possible to string multiple holographic displays together, but larger individual units are also within the limits of possibility.
Innovation, but at a price
Although the ambition is ultimately to change the way media is consumed in all environments, it will be some time before Looking Glass systems become a staple of every living room.
Full-size screens are prohibitively expensive for the average consumer (the second largest costs more than $20,000, and Frayne declined to share pricing information for the latter), meaning they’re used almost exclusively in a business context.
One of the largest sections of the Looking Glass Factory customer base is made up of 3d design companies, many of which were introduced to the product through their own employees and now use it as part of the creative process and to showcase their work.
“The smallest devices are a great sample of the world of the hologram,” Frayne explained. “Many 3D creators who develop holograms for fun buy our systems in the smaller size, but many work in companies that use 3D at their core.”
Over the past year or two, hobbyists who played with the 8-inch Looking Glass Portrait (which costs $400) have brought what they’ve created into their offices, he told us, creating demand among larger screen companies. scale.
The other main way Looking Glass products are implemented is in a marketing and events context. The big brands have been developing 3D content for years, even more so since the metaverse it entered the public consciousness, and now they are looking for a better way to display it.
“Every building ever made, every shoe ever designed, every spaceship ever modeled is created in 3D. Now brands can visualize that for customers and team members, without having to prepare for that three-dimensional experience.”
“Ours is the only commercial system on the market that allows more than one person to see something in 3D without having to use a viewer, which is crazy to say. A hundred years from now, we will remember this moment as completely anomalous.”
Democratizing the hologram
Frayne wasn’t about to predict how quickly the Looking Glass Factory will be able to bring holography into the mainstream. “Exactly where it goes and when history will tell,” he said.
However, the company insists that the technology, once mature enough, will spread to every corner of personal, social and professional life.
“We believe that holographic displays and holograms are the next form of media, after videos, photos and 2D applications,” said Frayne. “This will become a ubiquitous technology. That means they will be in the home and office, and there will be ways to experience 3D entertainment holographically in groups.”
Unlike many new technologies or platforms, this is not a chicken-and-egg problem; Many 3D media already exist, waiting to be presented in hologram form.
The next few years for the Looking Glass Factory, then, will be about investing more in R&D, but also showing holograms to as many new people as possible. A bit like when someone puts on a VR headset for the first time, the hope is that experiencing holography firsthand and up close is enough to hook people.