Tech

This picture frame is an affordable hologram that fits on your desk

Looking Glass says it has the most advanced and affordable holographic display out there.

Let's face it, holograms are cool; they epitomize just about everything we want to see out of future technology — an allure that often puts them at the center of a lot of our favorite pieces of science fiction. There's just one big problem: holograms, the convincing kind you see in movies, are really expensive to produce.

For example, holograms from this professional service, Arena 3D Industrial Illusion (which produced the interviewable hologram of Julian Assange seen here), start at more than $18,000 for a 13-foot projection.

Given those cost constraints, when any company purports to offer a true hologram at a price that the average consumer can afford, it's worth noting. Looking Glass, a company operating out of Brooklyn New York and Hong Kong, is doing just that.

The Looking Glass Portrait (a smaller version of its bigger holographic displays), which is launching via Kickstarter, is capable of performing a couple pretty nifty tricks, including rendering photos captured by a smart phone into 3D holograms. It can also display 3D models in holographic form.

While Looking Glass' product, a 1.3 lbs. frame that displays a customizable hologram, isn't quite a full-scale Coachella projection, it's a pretty compelling bit of technology for something that's small enough to be placed on your desk. It's also fairly cheap compared to comparable technology, especially if you opt-in on its early bird price.

$350

MSRP.

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$199

Day-one pricing.

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Looking Glass improves upon other holographic gadgets of its ilk in a couple of ways. For one, the portrait doesn't have to be tethered to a PC. Instead, an on-board computer and custom software render the image on-device.

Looking Glass also claims that the Portrait is the only display capable of showing images in full 3D to multiple people simultaneously by generating up to 100 perspectives of an image at once.

Picture-wise, the portrait is compatible with phones that have portrait mode like the iPhone X, 11, and 12. Those models of iPhone in particular capture 3D data using a sophisticated camera systems that can judge depth, and (with the newer models of iPhone) LiDAR.

The Portrait also supports Azure Kinect and Intel's RealSense, meaning it can connect with a camera and record holographic video. The company says this is a first step toward holographic video calls.

Here's a test using Apple's Animoji

Images can be edited and uploaded into the Portrait using the company's included HoloPlay Studio software which can hold about 1,000 different pieces of holographic media.

And for developers looking to play around in the holographic medium, Looking Glass also supports Unreal engine, Unity, Autodesk, Maya, and Blender for making 3D creations.

Looking Glass isn't alone in its quest to build an immersive holographic display. Sony is also working on a "Spatial Reality Display" that can project images in full 3D and costs $5,000 (a comparable display from Looking Glass costs $3,000).

If you're not looking to drop thousands on a still fairly experimental piece of technology, the Portrait may be a smarter choice for just getting your toes wet. To buy one, follow this link.

2021

The Portraits will start shipping in the first half of 2021.

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