Looking Glass & the Invention of the Desktop Holographic Display

Looking Glass & the Invention of the Desktop Holographic Display

Play along, make-believe it’s hyperreal,
But I live in a hologram with you.
-Lorde, Buzzcut Season

I’m a member of Looking Glass Factory, a team of twenty or so holographers, optical/mechanical/electrical engineers, Unity devs and 3-D graphic artists who have hunted for a solution to the hologram, day and night for the past four years.

When we started out, we knew that we wanted to make the dream of the living hologram real, a dream best displayed by visionary Pendleton Ward in Adventure Time, circa 2012:

Credit: Pendleton Ward, Adventure Time (Episode: Dad’s Dungeon)

Groups of people being able to see their memories / loved ones / virtual pets / rocket engine parts alive in glorious 3D, without the indignity of VR or AR headgear strapped to their faces. What most folks would call the hologram.*

But we had no idea how to do it. No one did. So we turned the invention knob to 11 and started to prototype every possible type of lightfield and volumetric display you can imagine. Here’s what one of our first successful attempts looked like:

December 3, 2015: Looking Glass Factory lab and a ‘lightfolding’ volumetric display prototype

See that ghost-like image in the small cube in the middle of the photo? That’s a volumetric capture of a friend in a hat. That felt like invention manna from heaven for us, because it was a 3D scene that could move and update using a computer yes a computer!, and it was something we thought we could build for under $1K at scale. But of course almost no one else got it. The resolution was just too low, even if our hearts were in the right place.

I’m not even getting into the hundreds of prototypes we made that didn’t work and the half dozen that did, at least enough for us to produce them as dev kits to sell to survive. Earn the money from dev kit sales, spend the money on R&D. Spinning LED arrays! Retroreflecting superstereoscopic optical reimagers! Gigantic woofers attached to projectors! We did it all.

These were our years in the invention woods when we didn’t know if getting a living holographic display on everyone’s desk was even possible. If this was a Netflix special about our startup, these years would be Season 1.

Fast forward three years to the start of Season 2 (today).

The holographic display that goes on everyone’s desk IS POSSIBLE and it’s here, right now. With shipments starting in September. And it’s called The Looking Glass.

These systems aren’t tens of thousands of dollars. We’re selling the standard Looking Glass for $600. Normally.

But in the hours after launch on July 24, 2018, you can get a Looking Glass for the heavily discounted $399! Very limited quantity.

We’re doing this insane pricing for one day only, so that any 3D creator out there can get a Looking Glass on his or her desk. If you’ve ever taken a 3D scan, used a 3D printer, played around with volumetric video, have a collection of architectural models or 3D simulations on your hard drive, or have Maya or Unity or Solidworks or Blender running on your computer, the Looking Glass is made for you.

A living three-dimensional frog inside a Looking Glass. But it’s made of light — not, well, frog. Modeled in Maya and brought to life with the Looking Glass Unity SDK.

Now for the first time, groups of people can see and interact with a virtual three-dimensional world on their desk, no VR or AR headgear required.

If you’re ready to bring your 3D creations to life and explore a universe of holographic apps made by folks around the world, head over to our Kickstarter and get a Looking Glass! I’m unbelievably excited that, well, this technology is even possible and that 3D creators around the globe will have these living virtual worlds on their desks soon.


*Unless they are the one in a thousand person that yells foul when anything other than captured laser interference patterns is called by this hallowed name. Yup, I see you guys on the bulletin boards. As a long-time holographer in this conventional sense myself, I think that ship has sailed and the name “hologram” now means anything that is truly 3d and can be viewed without VR or AR headgear. The holograms from the movies, basically.

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