Light Field Lab has raised $7 million for holographic display technologies that the company says will make you wonder whether what you’re seeing is real or an illusion.
The money comes from Khosla Ventures and Sherpa Capital, with participation from R7 Partners. It’s a large amount of money for a seed round, but the startup is very ambitious.
San Jose, California-based Light Field Lab will use the funding to complete a prototype of its light-field display system, which it says will enable real holographic objects to appear as if they are floating in space without the aid of accessories or head-mounted gear.
Jon Karafin, CEO of Light Field Lab, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the hope is to eventually create something akin to the fictional Star Trek Holodeck, where illusion and reality are indistinguishable. In the near term, the company is creating prototype displays that will show very high-resolution images in a 3D space.
“We are very excited to work with these investors,” Karafin said. “We are building a truly holographic projection wall.”
The walls could be placed on floors or ceilings, and then they would project holographic images into a 3D space.
“Light Field Lab has the potential to change the way we view and interact with media,” said Khosla Ventures founder Vinod Khosla, in a statement. “This is essentially the holy grail of optical display technology, enabling things that seem like science fiction to be possible today. We are thrilled to be in on the ground floor with the team, and look forward to helping evolve this exciting technology.”
The initial modules are 6 inches by 4 inches, and they can project images into a 3D space. The production modules will be something like 2 feet by 2 feet, and they will have a resolution of 16K by 10K, far more dense than the 4K, two-dimensional screens we use today in high-end TVs, Karafin said.
“When you get these types of resolutions, you are no longer able to tell the difference between the real and the synthetic,” he said. “When you look at a display, you know it is a display. This is a true window into a world.”
Those 2-feet-by-2-feet modules will be stitched together to make 100-feet wide screens, with huge images that could be used at venues such as theme park attractions, concerts, and other events. The initial customers in the space will be theme parks or location-based entertainment, Karafin said.
“Projecting holograms is just the beginning,” said Karafin. “We are building the core modules to enable a real-world Holodeck. The strategic guidance offered by our investors is critical to enable these breakthrough technologies.”
Light Field Lab will target its real-world holographic experiences at both professional and consumer markets. Eventually, it hopes to build holographic video walls with hundreds of gigapixels of resolution.
The company was founded in 2017 by Karafin, Brendan Bevensee, and Ed Ibe. But Karafin said he had been thinking about the challenge for a decade. The company has a handful of employees and contractors now, and it would expand during 2018. The team had experience working at light field capture and display maker Lytro in the past.
“Our core premise is to take the accessories, like glasses and headsets, off the body,” Karafin said. “They don’t give you a true immersive experience. With us, you can project out life-size things that are directly in the room with you. It is as if you have a digital blank canvas and can transport anyone to any world. When you have that, you have the Holodeck. That is what we are building toward.”