The epic adventures of Marty McFly. Princess Leia's desperate 3D plea for intergalactic help. The ability to send a more personalized, interactive note to a loved one. These are just a few of the inspirations behind the newly launched Looking Glass Portrait, the world's first personal holographic display from Brooklyn/Hong Kong-based studio Looking Glass Factory. The project, which launched on Kickstarter last December (and ends this week), is powered by innovative light field technology that enables users to turn any 2D image into a 3D hologram within minutes—no experience required. "You don't need to know how to program to use this holographic display," says Looking Glass Factory founder and CEO Shawn Frayne, who explains that while previous holographic displays needed advanced hardware to run 3D media, this new approach is not only designed for smartphones but is also equipped with a standalone mode for "the millions who work and play in 3D—artists, designers, developers, filmmakers, photographers—and those just starting to explore three-dimensional capture and creation."
The team launched its first holographic display in 2018 using "volumetric printing" to enable users to 3D-print customized holograms. Now, by fusing light field and volumetric display technologies, Looking Glass Portrait can both refract light and project it, "tricking" the brain into seeing a 3D image. Using proprietary HoloPlay Studio software, users can upload photos, videos, and even 3D models to the device, creating custom 10-second holographic messages able to be projected both in front of and behind the portrait display. The result is holographic content that can be uploaded and sent by mail, allowing recipients to activate and view preloaded holograms, no expertise or 3D glasses required.
Looking Glass Portrait
So far, Looking Glass Portrait has already acquired an energized following, with users posting their jaw-dropping creations on the Hologram Club on Discord, Looking Glass Club in Japan, and via the brand's Twitter handle @lkgglass.
Michelle Senteio A game designer with a background in digital language arts, Michelle Senteio works on products that focus on emotion or subverting normalized conventions. "I've been working on narrative holographic experiences and volumetric films that explore how far I can push emotions in 3D," she says, explaining that she started creating as an experiment in how to make herself feel "as real as possible in the display" and in her art. "The Looking Glass Portrait is like a window. The project isn't brought to life. It already feels alive—like a portal by which I can see myself and others in the memory's eye," she says. "I already understood the value of seeing my work in 3D —I've been making art with Looking Glass since the 8.9 came out in 2018—but The Looking Glass Portrait makes me want to capture all of my loved ones in a truer, more spatial memory of them—my niece and nephew's excitement, my great aunt's face and eyes. I think that this space has pushed memory capture forward so much that we will no longer have to reach in our mind's eye to remember certain things about the people we cherish and the spaces we made memories with them."
A self-taught illustrator and web developer based in Paris, the artist Dedouze, who creates digital works often inspired by Japanese animated films of the '80s and Moebius illustrations, was seeded an early version of the display. "The artwork I tested on the Looking Glass device is a scene from my imaginary world, so it's a continuity of the same things I've been creating this past year," they say. Right now, they are excited to view their works in the Looking Glass Portrait. "It's joyful to see an imaginary world in a physical frame that we can hold in our hands—a magic window to another place. Let's hope this technology will evolve in the future to the point where we can display imaginary worlds on a screen as big as a giant poster."
A game artist for companies like Zynga, Rovio, and Wooga, Mar began working in 2D before dipping their toes into 3D as a side hobby. "My style is about having this toy-like feel to my models," they explain. In "Bunny Terrarium," one of the artist's most popular creations, a magical bunny is kept as a pet enclosed in a little ecosystem, inspired by the blind box Kirby terrariums the artist had on their desk. With Looking Glass Portrait, Mar seeks to bring their furry-friend into the 3D world. "The Looking Glass Portrait supports this idea by bringing an extra dimension that makes the terrarium feel real and alive, almost as if my scene was a diorama. I like the idea of having this tiny creature sitting on my desk."
Looking Glass Portrait
"It's what I've personally been working towards for over 20 years, ever since seeing Marty McFly get gobbled up by the holographic shark in Back to the Future 2," Looking Glass Factory's Frayne explains. "I've always wanted a way for everyone to have a holographic display that they can create for." He feels that the easiest way to make a hologram is to just snap a portrait mode photo with your phone. "Believe it or not, those portrait mode photos you've been taking have depth-information hidden behind them, normally used to generate the Bokeh Effect. Now, software that comes with every Looking Glass Portrait can use that same depth info to generate a three-dimensional hologram with a single click."
"We have been chasing a big dream over the last six years. It's the dream of what comes after 2D computers, flat media, and 2D screens. Now, suddenly millions of folks that have smartphones have a holographic camera in their pocket that can take those memories and turn them into holograms in their own Looking Glass portrait. Imagine sending a holographic birthday message or saying hello as a hologram to your great-great-great-granddaughter. Now you can."