The Looking Glass Factory develops interfaces for holographic, light field displays. Light field displays seem to be advancing, and we invited LGF's CEO and co-founder, Shawn Frayne, to help us understand the technology and to tell us more about the company, its technologies and latest status.
Q: Hello Shawn. Can you give us a short background on LGF, and on your own interest in light field displays?
Ever since I saw the holographic shark swallow up Marty McFly in Back to the Future II, I have been pursuing the dream of the hologram – a way to create and share images and memories that are as lifelike as people and things in the real world. However, despite living in a 3D universe, our digital interactions, memories and creations remain trapped on flat, 2D screens. I wanted to change that, and that’s how and why Looking Glass Factory started.
We’ve come a long way with our interfaces and our software, but we’re still just scratching the surface of what’s possible. As holographic interfaces become ubiquitous over the next decade, we’re speeding ahead to deliver technologies that enrich our personal lives and change the way we work, interact, learn and collaborate.
Q: What is the market you're targeting with LGF's technology and products?
Ever since the first day we started, all of us in Looking Glass have worked towards developing an unparalleled holographic interface where users could enjoy more meaningful interactions with one another through the power of holograms. A lot of folks are talking about the metaverse these days, and our role in that is to pull the 3D content that exists in the metaverse into the real world, where we work and play. Specifically, through the Looking Glass Portrait, the world’s first personal holographic interface, art, design, and even memories come to life in new and impactful ways. Further, the recently launched large format 4K and 8K second generation Looking Glass systems provide groundbreaking ways to work and communicate within a variety of industries:
Drug Discovery: The observation of 3D molecular structures in actual 3D is essential to scientists studying and designing new drug treatments. Viewing these structures without VR or AR headgear enables those users to explore molecular environments more efficiently, accelerating the discovery of tomorrow’s medicines and materials.
Product Design & Engineering: The use of holographic interfaces reduces the complexity and ambiguity of design by allowing engineers and designers to view complex 3D models in real three-dimensional space, reducing the risk of error and saving critical time. Prior to fabricating - and without the need to print 3D models - teams can view an extremely high-fidelity look at designs with the ability to transform, scale, rotate and manipulate a three-dimensional scene in real-time.
Medical Visualization: In a field where time saved could mean saved lives, it’s important to analyze information as quickly as possible. Without needing to gear up into VR/AR headsets, medical professionals are able to communicate information about 3D medical scans with a greater level of patient understanding when they view 3D medical scans holographically. Educating tomorrow’s medical professionals also becomes more efficient, helping students visually understand complex concepts through holography.
Scientific Visualization: Whether working with LiDAR data, computational fluid dynamics, finite element analysis, climate science, or any other field that hinges on visualizing and analyzing 3D data or simulations, Looking Glass displays let scientists view everything that is 3D as a real-time interactive holographic representation. This not only leads to stunning presentations, but ultimately better, faster insights and decision-making.
Future of Work: As many of us adapt to new work environments brought about by the pandemic, Looking Glass holographic systems play a key role by giving employees a way to collaborate and share feedback on projects and effectively communicate in ways current video technologies can’t match. The Looking Glass suite of products allows for the continuity of work wherever you are.
Holographic Communications: A lot of us are on hours of 2D video calls every day, where the people we work with and our friends and family are just little glowing 2D rectangles on a screen. There’s a need for something between a Zoom call and being there in person with someone, and we believe that is holographic communication through the Looking Glass. This is something that is top of mind in some of our upcoming work.
Q: How does your technology work?
Our light field interfaces work by emitting a vast quantity of light rays with careful attention paid to the direction of those rays. Where a traditional two-dimensional computer monitor might present a single view or perspective of a scene, a superstereoscopic or light field monitor can present dozens or hundreds of perspectives of that same scene simultaneously. This approach has the ability to represent anything real or digital (objects, people, etc.) with extremely high three-dimensional fidelity to groups of people without need of a VR or AR headset.
Q: Can you tell us a bit more about the display technologies and hardware used in LGF's displays?
The displays require high resolution and the current versions of the product use LCD technology supplied by display industry partners. OLED and MicroLEDs are certainly candidates on the roadmap for the future.
The Looking Glass Factory technology developed over many years include a proprietary hardware component and innovative software algorithms that create the multi-viewer superstereoscopic effect.
Q: Are you already offering products? Can you share more details on these?
Yes, we’re currently selling three variations of our holographic light field interfaces. Looking Glass Portrait (7.9”, 2K display) is designed for desktops and for the millions of creators that are ready to own the third dimension: artists, developers, designers, filmmakers, photographers, and anyone starting to explore 3D.
The Looking Glass 4K Gen2 is a 15.6” landscape-oriented display designed for daily three-dimensional work. Whether working individually or in a group, Looking Glass 4K Gen2 is the ultimate 3D deskmate, sitting on your desk with the rest of your daily tools. No VR/AR headgear required.
Our 8K, 32” diagonal display is the ultimate choice for enterprises, serving a variety of applications described previously.
Q: How is LGF different from its competition?
What folks call a “holographic display” covers a broad spectrum of technologies, some more advanced and powerful than others and each serving different needs. We make superstereoscopic displays, which are also known as Super Multi-view or Light Field Displays. Our systems are unique in that they are group-viewable systems that work without camera tracking systems or headsets or 3D glasses.
Another popular sub-category under the broad banner of “holographic” is the swept-volume volumetric display, in which light is scattered off of a physical medium, typically an oscillating plate or helix. This type of system was a leading contender for the general purpose three-dimensional interface a couple decades back, but the need for a moving part that sweeps the entire viewable volume has limited its reach thus far.
The most-Youtube-famous type of display under the broad banner of hologram, is the 2D pseudo-hologram. This category includes rapidly rotating two-dimensional LED fan systems, and two-dimensional reflections aka the Pepper’s Ghost illusion. These systems are often used in advertising and entertainment applications, particularly where viewers are over 30 feet or more away.
Q: When someone says metaverse, AR/VR come to mind, how do you fit within that eco-system?
There are so many folks talking about the metaverse these days, I’m hesitant to define it. One thing we know is that whatever we say now in terms of defining the boundaries of the metaverse will be laughed at in 10 years.
That said, we know a few things about the metaverse. It’s a blending of the real world and digital worlds. It involves 3D stuff – it isn’t 2D, it’s 3D. And it’s multiplatform, meaning the 3D stuff and conversations and creations of the metaverse can be accessed through different devices, such as mobile AR (on tablets and phones), through VR and AR headsets, and through the new third pillar of access, holographic interfaces like the Looking Glass.
The Looking Glass essentially is a window that connects the real world with the digital worlds of the metaverse – a portal that let’s that 3D stuff of the metaverse into the real world.
We take a radical view here. We believe that within 5 years most people, most of the time will access all that the metaverse has to offer through holographic interfaces like the Looking Glass predominantly, while less frequently gearing up in a VR or AR headset.
Q: Where are you at in terms of commercial shipments?
Unlike most of our competition, we’re shipping product. This last June, we began shipping the Looking Glass Portrait, and our 4K and 8K Gen2 systems are just beginning to ship as well. We currently have over 10,000 customers and growing fast.
Q: Now that you have launched your Gen 1 products with commercial success, what does your roadmap look like?
Amidst shipping in mass production, we’ve also announced and started providing a slate of software to help our community create holograms on our displays. We will continue to focus on both the hardware and software as we move into the new year.
We have some other exciting stuff in store cooking in the background as well. Stay tuned.
Q: What has your customer feedback been like?
“This is by far the best 3D display that I had ever seen” is the most commonly heard comment. Customers are pleased with the results of our work, several of our customers are collaborating with us to build out a bigger eco-system.
Q: What are your near term needs – are you looking for more customers, will you require further funding, do you need partnerships (panel suppliers, etc)?
We are always excited to bring more customers in the world of the hologram. One of our short term goals that we are getting ever closer to achieving is to put a Looking Glass on every 3D creator’s desk in the world.
We are a partnership and community driven company, and are always excited to have conversations with folks that want to work with us on building the holographic interfaces industry.
Currently we are well funded with growing revenues.
Q: How will LGF transform the industry? Where are you aiming to be in 5 years?
As I mentioned before, we’re still just scratching the surface of what’s possible. We envision holographic interfaces becoming ubiquitous over the next five to ten years, both in the workplace and at home, and we intend to be at the forefront of that revolution of the third dimension.