This digital picture frame creates holographic images from your phone

Cal Jeffrey

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In a nutshell: Holographic display startup Looking Glass, has a new 3D-imaging display that the average consumer can afford. It is smaller than its 15-inch professional model and only works in portrait mode, but it's about one-tenth the price. It works standalone or connected to and accelerated by a PC.

Looking Glass, a company that makes holographic displays, launched a Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday for a digital picture frame called Looking Glass Portrait. It is a 7.9-inch screen that uses image depth data, such as that from the iPhone's TrueDepth camera, to create a realistic 3D image in a 58-degree angled cone.

No glasses are needed to view the holograms because the device uses light field and volumetric display technologies to create the illusion of depth. Light is refracted and projected at different parts of the screen simultaneously to construct a three-dimensional image or video.

It does require some preprocessing to work, though. Users must first import the desired photo to an app called HoloPlay Studio. The software then uses the depth data to convert the image into 45 to 100 separate frames of perspective. The Looking Glass Portrait then processes and displays these viewing angles to the screen.

The display is not something new. Looking Glass first introduced the technology back in 2018 with the Looking Glass 15.6" for $3,000. It is a larger landscape frame more suitable for 3D-modeling professionals. The Looking Glass Portrait is designed for more personal use and only displays in portrait mode, but is priced at $349.

Looking Glass says that the device works best with light-field photography captures (equipment sold separately or bundled) but will also work well using an iPhone 12. Currently, the display does not have native support for Android, but developers hope to have it by 2021. Until then, depth data has to be merged manually for Android photos.

"Currently we only support the entire process of turning an photo [sic] into a hologram for iPhones. If, however, you are able to extract the depth data from an image taken with your phone (there are a number of tools online to do this) you'll be able to load that data into the device. We're looking at supporting Android photos in 2021, but the formats and encoding of depth data varies much more than with Apple, and the quality is often not as high."

Looking Glass only launched its Kickstarter campaign on Wednesday, intending to reach $50,000. Within a little more than 48 hours, it has already smashed its goal, raking in $1,573,000 as of this writing. Early investors can get a Looking Glass Portrait for $199 (a $150 discount). The campaign ends January 14, 2021.

Keep in mind that even if a company meets its KS goal, it does not guarantee the product goes to market. However, Looking Glass has taken some steps to limit risks and ensure shipments. Details are listed in its Kickstarter risks assessment. Plus the company's previous efforts have proven fruitful.

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