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The Brooklyn, New York-based hologram company showed the 65-inch 8K display behind closed doors last week at the Augmented World Expo event.
Shawn Frayne, CEO of Looking Glass, showed me the screen in both dark and light conditions and it looked pretty good.
“We think this is the beginning of holographic displays actually becoming ubiquitous in our lives, initially with the in-store and trade show experience but then eventually in homes, hospitals, schools in a very big way because the content is already there,” Frayne said. “The engines to make the content are there, and tens of millions of people can generate content like this today. There just hasn’t been a way to consume it.”
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The new display is five times larger than any other 3D holographic display demonstrated in the lab by any other company, he said, and it is 50 times larger than any other group-viewable holographic display to ever come to market.
This vast scale makes it ideal for group-viewable uses, such as experiential marketing, 3D storytelling, engineering, and design. The new display is the fourth display in Looking Glass Factory’s growing lineup.
“One of the most frequent questions we get asked is, how large can these displays get?” said Frayne. “The answer is now a ridiculously huge 65 inches, and this is only the beginning. Similar to the shift from photographs to film, radio to television, and black and white to color over the past century — the Looking Glass 65 will usher in one of the monumental shifts in how media is consumed — from flat 2D media to deeply 3D. No headset or 3D glasses required.”
The new display is already in use by entertainment companies for both storytelling and marketing, though Frayne wouldn’t disclose most of the companies yet.
This week, Springbok Entertainment is premiering its new film, entitled Zanzibar: Trouble in Paradise, on the 65” display at Tribeca 2022. Zanzibar: Trouble in Paradise is the first holographic film and documentary on a Looking Glass display, and it is also the first-ever holographic movie and documentary in competition at the Tribeca Festival.
“We are thrilled to collaborate with Looking Glass on the premiere of its new and stunning 65-inch 8k holographic display,” said Brandon Zamel, CEO of Springbok Entertainment, in a statement. “The massive increase in the size promises 3D storytellers the ideal canvas to push the boundaries of immersive experiences. This display solidifies the mainstream opportunities and applications of the immersive medium; effectively providing a missing piece of the puzzle for the industry, that in turn, will accelerate its entire growth.”
The Looking Glass 65” is a headset-free holographic display. It is aimed at showcasing images, scenes, and even entire films. No headset is required.
It is viewable by groups of 50 people. By generating up to 100 different perspectives of 3D content from 100 million points of light every 60th of a second, the Looking Glass 65” re-creates reality with photons. That means everything shown in the Looking Glass 65” looks real for up to 50 simultaneous viewers.
I found that it look good from one angle, and then it would shift to another angle the more I moved to a side view. The center of the image looked the sharpest, but the details in the background or sides were a bit fuzzy. Still, it looked pretty impressive.
The display has an 8K resolution, color depth of over a billion colors, and a 16:9 aspect ratio that allows viewers to see the finest details of an image from multiple perspectives. And it is only three inches thick despite a ton of glass, aluminum, and electronics. It has four times the depth of any other group-viewable system, Frayne said.
And it works with a variety of content. That includes plugins for Unity, Unreal, Blender and other software applications. Looking Glass Factory’s earlier 32-inch screen sells for $20,000, and it has a 7.9-inch portrait version that it sells for $400.
By comparison, the portrait personal holographic display uses light field technology to produce about 45 different images so that you can view content in 3D, Frayne said. Tens of thousands of content creators are using it to create their own content, and Looking Glass makes software for turning 3D content into holograms that people can share over the internet.
The 32-inch has a 53-degree viewing zone and it pumps out about 100 perspectives (two perspectives per degree) so a group of people can view an image at the same time. Your eyes see it in 3D as they are hit with five to seven perspectives at any given time.
You can expect the Looking Glass 65″ to be in the tens of thousands, but no price has been set yet. You can preorder it here.
Looking Glass does have competitors such as Light Field Lab, but Frayne declined to comment on the other competitive technologies. But he generally believes it’s better to experience 3D content without having to “gear up” with virtual reality headsets or other tech. Frayne believes we will have lots of ways to consume 3D.
“We’re by far the leaders in this field, in terms of the number of units out there and the community,” he said. Looking Glass uses an LCD or OLED display backplane as a foundation and then it adds optical layers that redirect each subpixel. With 100 million subpixels, it can generate a synthetic version of the light field that makes the imagery feel real. In contrast to a 2D screen, the 3D screen has intensity, color, and angle.
“Our software is kind of the magical secret sauce behind this because that lets us very accurately control the direction of all 100 million points of light to then re-create what feels like a real jet engine,” he said. “And this system is actually hollow so the light is actually converging.”
Frayne grew up in Tampa, Florida, and made a holographic photography studio in his bedroom. He studied physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and studied holography there. So he understands what a real hologram is.
“The term hologram has really taken on the meaning of three dimensional media that groups of people can see,” Frayne said. “So as a hologram aficionado, and nerd myself, this is what we wanted all along. It just doesn’t happen to be with an interference pattern approach. It’s with a light field approach. So the more technical term for this system is a light field display, rather than a holographic display. But honestly, there’s only like 100 people in the world who care about that.”
As far as target markets go, Frayne believes it will take off in experiential marketing, digital signage and in-store experiences.
“There’s a lot of experimentation but many brands are starting to use these systems for in-store experiences,” he said.
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