This headset-less holographic display allows for a 3D presence, from a distance


We all want the Star Trek holodeck. And we’re all going to keep waiting for that, because frankly, most of what makes Star Trek’s holodeck great is probably impossible.

Or, at least at our current stage of technology, extremely unlikely.

Especially without wearing TV screens a few inches from our eyes.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t have a 3D visual holographic presence in places where we are not physically present. And a New York-based startup is enabling that future right now, with an expedition product that at least one friend of mine with all the tech gadgets possible says is the best thing he’s ever seen.

It has been preparing for 15 years.

And if you can believe the company behind the product, it’s as revolutionary as the transition from still photography to moving video.

Looking glass factory founder Shawn Frayne started creating holographic technology eight or nine years old after seeing Marty McFly get swallowed by a holographic shark in Back to the future II. And he never really stopped. One of the reasons this is what changes in our experience when 2D becomes 3D … when the dish becomes dimensional.

Real, in a way.

More real, if I may say so, than flat photos or videos.

Listen to the interview behind this story on the TechFirst podcast:

“The way we remember the people in our lives who are still there and also the people who are no longer there, I think, is something that a new interface naturally plays a role,” Frayne told me in a recent episode of the TechFirst podcast. “My brother Ryan, he passed away a few years ago. When he was still there … one of the things I wanted to do was capture a video message from him to his newly born daughter.

The technology was not there yet.

He wasn’t able to capture this exactly as he wanted.

But that connection with people who aren’t physically present – and who may never be able to be physically present again – is what prompted him to create a new kind of screen.

The result is the Looking Glass, which Frayne says is the world’s first holographic interface that you can use to engage in a world of 3D content without needing to put on an augmented reality or virtual reality headset. There is an 8-inch high-definition screen for portraits and personal use, a 16-inch 4K secondary computer screen, and “the world’s highest resolution 32-inch bright-field display”, a monitor. 8K holographic for group work and presentation. Around that is a software platform for putting your own photos from your Mac or PC on Looking Glass, and a community of holographic app providers.

(Looking Glass screens are difficult to accurately display in a two-dimensional photo: play the video at the top of this article for up to about 20 seconds to see it in action.)

It’s a big deal, said Frayne.

“There was a time, over a hundred years ago, when people had memories and illustrations of imaginary futures that they could see in photographs and paintings, but… they weren’t alive the same. way that things are alive in the real world. “says Frayne.” Then someone came and put 12 of these pictures in sequence in a second and they repeated that, and then a new film medium was born. And it got closer to life, more close to what we see around us, and the leap from flat media, from flat computing devices, from flat screens to space systems like the mirror, is at least as big a leap as the leap from photography to film.

The reality of 3D stems from how it occurs in reality and how it is recreated in holography.

Standard two-dimensional computer or phone screens, like the one you’re reading right now, glow with bright spots. Light is directed primarily in one direction, toward you, and light essentially has two properties, Frayne says: intensity and color.

It’s not like the real world.

Light in the real world also has these properties, of course, but the light we see outdoors, in our homes or in our workplaces adds a third property: directionality. This type of light does not come from a single plane. It is not primarily aimed in one direction. It comes from all directions and bounces in all directions. It refracts through glass and reflects off mirrors.

The Looking Glass 8K product reproduces this with 100 million light points.

And this is essential for 3D imagery and its accompanying sense of reality.

“It gives things their dimensionality … it gives the world specular detail when you see the reflection of someone’s eye or a river,” Frayne explains. “It’s real because it’s three-dimensional, it’s specular.”

Viewing holographic images of loved ones or beloved places is one use. Another, especially for larger Looking Glass products, works with others in 3D spaces.

“One of the biggest benefits of Looking Glass today is that you can collaborate more effectively around 3D content with someone standing right next to you in a work setting,” says Frayne. “And it’s already expanding into the hybrid desktop situation that most of us find ourselves in now and expect to be … for the foreseeable future.”

It could be a molecular model of a drug or a 3D representation of a new product that people can interact with socially, virtually touch by reaching into Looking Glass screens and collaborating around. And maybe it’s a 3D model of your face and / or body in your coworker’s office halfway around the world, and his in yours, as you work together.

“It’s going to take one more step into the not too distant future where I can have synchronous communication, so I can also be there with my colleagues pictured in a holographic video call and what have you,” Frayne says.

“So that’s a lot, a lot, a lot closer than I think most people realize.”

Get a full transcript here, Where subscribe at TechFirst.


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