I am so excited to introduce to you this week's In-Depth with Jan Kaiser. We're huge fans of Jan here inside Looking Glass Factory and in turn, Jan also happens to be a very prominent member of our community and you'll often see him lending a helping hand on our Discord Server under the username @eSko. Over the last year+, he's developed and released some of the most exciting experiments for the Looking Glass (both our Gen1 system as well as the new Looking Glass Portrait), all of which he details below. A few weeks back, he also happened to tweet out one of the most viral tweets to go out in Looking Glass history - and to be fair, who doesn't love Doom? - Nikki
A little bit about yourself including who you are, where you're from, what you do (any or all of the above)
I am an expat living in Zürich, Switzerland. In my day job I investigate white-collar crime from the position of a digital forensics analyst. You can imagine it as looking for a needle in the haystack of digital evidence that our everyday modern lives leave behind.
How you got into holograms — was there a particular a-ha moment or was this more gradual?
Like many people, I became fascinated with holograms thanks to the sci-fi movies I watched as a kid. Displaying digital content in 3D is such a fundamental idea that it feels almost intuitive that such technology could, and should, exist. For me, it became real in 2018, when I stumbled upon the Kickstarter campaign for your first generation displays. I immediately backed the campaign, but given that most Kickstarter campaigns are multi-year endeavors, I stopped paying attention for a while. Fast forward to January 2020 when I was browsing my previous pledges and I realized that I forgot to submit my shipping address – oops! This was quickly resolved by Janice, your wonderful customer rep, and I received my first Looking Glass later that week. Little did I know that I just found a hobby that would keep me busy during the next year of lockdowns.
What have you made so far with Looking Glass Portrait that you've been really excited about sharing?
I took on a self-assigned role of a Looking Glass evangelist, introducing the technology to as many people as humanly possible. This involves being able to demo the display on the go. The official developer toolchain is currently heavily oriented towards desktop computers (and for good reasons), so I focused my efforts on creating tools that I can run directly from my iPad. Apple has done an incredible job with their chip design and as a result the USB-C iPads have no problem driving interactive holograms in real time (with a proper HDMI adapter, that is). I would encourage everyone to check out my GitHub page where I publish my hologram projects.
What have you been working on recently that is particularly interesting and of theme?
I think there is a huge potential in gaming on the Looking Glass. Early on, I experimented with turning Minecraft into a hologram, and this is a topic I would like to revisit in the near future. We can turn any existing game into a hologram with nothing more than a depth buffer. I am looking into ways to enable a somewhat universal and repeatable approach to apply this to any game. Another fascinating idea is multi-player gaming, where each player sees only their part of the game while looking at the same screen from different angles.
What are you most excited to make with Looking Glass Portrait
As more and more Looking Glass Portraits are being delivered to backers worldwide, it has been amazing to see the amount of content being shared by the community. I am currently working on an iPad app that will allow you to easily display quilt images and videos as holograms without the need for a computer.
How does Looking Glass Portrait differ from other technology you've used so far?
The defining feature of Looking Glass displays is the fact that there are no glasses or headsets required. Seeing real 3D with your bare eyes is simply magical. It makes the holograms part of the real world and makes for great experiences that can be enjoyed by multiple people at the same time. It also allows the use of Looking Glass displays in situations where the limitations of traditional 3D technologies make them impractical - like art exhibitions, museums, or in marketing.
What's your favorite hologram?
That would be a hologram of my grandpa that I made almost a year ago. The reason why I picked this particular hologram is its journey – from a black and white photograph with bent corners to a holographic one, which was colored and turned into 3D using machine learning models. When I saw that photo in 3D for the first time, I could not believe my eyes. It illustrates the technological progress we’ve made during one person’s lifetime, and it makes me excited about the future.
Your favorite 3D software tool?
I have to pick Three.js. It is not the most advanced tool in terms of capabilities, but it is by far the most democratic one. What I find wonderful about open web technologies is the fact that you can peek into the source code of any single website and use it as a learning material to expand your knowledge. And, it has an official Portrait support in the form of HoloPlay.js.
50 years from now, what does the future look like?
My biggest hope is that we will be able to navigate the ethical questions brought by new technologies and that we will not end up in an episode of Black Mirror. And holograms. Holograms everywhere.
What's the day in the life of Jan Kaiser like?
That’s classified. I could tell you, but then - you know how it goes…
Anything else to add?
I would encourage everyone to check out the following Twitter thread, which is sort of a showcase of all the different use cases for the Looking Glass displays that I was able to compile over the past year. And feel free to ping me if you’ve built something cool.
Jan Kaiser is a forensics analyst based in Switzerland. You can find his work on his Github and by following his work on Twitter.