A Holographic SDK to Rule Them All
A new development framework goes far beyond holographic apps. Now the Looking Glass can connect to virtually any 3D software tool in the world.
I’m part of a team based in Brooklyn and Hong Kong that makes a popular holographic light field display called the Looking Glass. What a lot of folks may not realize is that in addition to making the hardware behind the Looking Glass, we also make the underlying holographic software that powers these systems.
Until very recently, our team primarily focused on building software tools that would give developers the ability to make holographic apps. Our HoloPlay Unity SDK, the Three.js library for the Looking Glass, and the recently announced HoloPlay Plugin for Unreal differ in many ways, but they’re all part of the same genus with a shared basic purpose — they are used to create standalone holographic apps, like these wonders.
Now after over a year of development, we’re announcing something entirely new that we believe will increase the capabilities of the Looking Glass a thousand-fold. It’s a major overhaul of the software infrastructure that powers the Looking Glass, fueled by a new development toolset called HoloPlay Core. In addition to making the Looking Glass cross-platform with Windows, Mac, Linux (at last!), and the web, HoloPlay Core also gives developers new low-level access to the essential building blocks underpinning our holographic displays. This means any developer can now make holographic tools in custom rendering pipelines and perhaps most significantly, the Looking Glass can now be directly integrated with almost any piece of existing 3D software in the world.
The potential here can’t be overstated. Imagine viewing an incredibly complex computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulation in a conventional 2D monitor, using simulation software like Ansys CFX. Ok ok, that might be hard to imagine. But it’d also be hard to comprehend if you were seeing it in person.
As I described in The Killer Apps of the Hologram, holographic interfaces address the complexity and ambiguity caused by the content-to-display mismatch between innately 3D content and 2D monitors, finally allowing engineers and designers to see their in-progress 3D models, complex assemblies, and simulations running in real-time in real three-dimensional space. This saves design time and reduces the chance of potentially catastrophic errors. And now with HoloPlay Core, those 3D software platforms can be directly tied together with the Looking Glass, giving a real-time holographic viewport into an unfolding simulation as if it was there with you in the room.
This advantage extends to a number of industries that rely on complex 3D data sets, many of which will now gain holographic capabilities thanks to HoloPlay Core. For instance, we recently partnered with Schrödinger, the global leader in computational chemistry. Through a HoloPlay Core-enabled integration, every scientist around the world that is designing new drug treatments with the help of Schrödinger’s software platform can now see that treatment taking shape holographically, in the Looking Glass on their desk.
Imagine the wide world of 3D creation and exploration tools that already exist — Solidworks, Navisworks, Blender, ESRI ArcGIS, Maya, and the thousands of specialty software tools in fields like 3D medical imaging and scientific visualization — the list is endless. We’re making some of these first integrations ourselves, but there are so many 3D software workflows out there it’d be impossible for us to tackle even a tiny fraction of them on our own. This is why we’re making this announcement today— to get HoloPlay Core into your hands.
So if you’re a developer, product manager, CTO or CEO at a company that’s developed your own 3D software, or if you use a particular toolset in your day-to-day work that you’re itching to supercharge with a real-time holographic viewport, sign up here! We’d love to get you access to the beta of HoloPlay Core. Integrations can take anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, depending on the complexity, and we’re here to help along the way. If you’d like to dig in deeper, you can also find a more detailed breakdown of the power unlocked by HoloPlay Core in software architect Evan Kahn’s post here.
With your help, there will be dozens, and then hundreds, and then thousands of integrations, giving holographic capabilities to every 3D toolset out there, impacting the work of millions of engineers, doctors, scientists and designers around the world.
To the future!
— — — —
Inspired by movies in the 80’s and 90’s, the author Shawn Frayne has been reaching towards the dream of the hologram for over 20 years. Shawn got his start with a classic laser interference pattern holographic studio he built in high school, followed by training in advanced holographic film techniques under holography pioneer Steve Benton at MIT. Shawn currently works between Brooklyn and Hong Kong where he serves as co-founder and CEO of Looking Glass Factory.