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April 14, 2022

Looking Glass Factory Shows Off New Holographic Monitors

On a recent visit to light field display developer Looking Glass Factory (LGF), we had a chance to see their new glasses-free 3D displays holographic monitors. This lineup includes the new 7.9” Portrait Display and Generation 2 versions of the 15.6” 4K model and the 32” 8K monitor. After a 2-year hiatus in showing their products, the company was pleased to start showing off these new displays. 

Holographic Monitors

These displays use a sophisticated light steering lens to blend dozens of views only in the horizontal direction. This lack of vertical parallax is perfectly adequate for a wide range of use cases and creates some compelling images. The lens array always reduces the native resolution of the underlying display panel. You can see some modest structure in the images presented on our visit – even on the 8K display holographic monitors. But this is negated by the fidelity of the overall 3D image. 

While each display’s number of views and resolution are different, the relative image quality is relatively consistent. The depth volume is about plus/minus 3 inches or so, so not huge but beneficial for many applications. They all also feature an edge lighted frame that sits in front of the display surface. This clever optical trick helps establish the feeling of a volume within which the image is presented. LGF has also learned other tricks like blurring the image at the edges of its depth volume. The optics will do this normally, but LGF will also slightly deblur the image to give a shallow depth of field look, which is more natural and more cinematic. They have also learned how to use shadows and lighting to amplify the 3D-ness of the image better.

The Portrait Display launched during the pandemic and has already shipped over 10,000 units for around a $400 price tag. That is extremely impressive and is likely the highest volume shipping glasses-free 3D display to date. At this price point, it is a significant factor in helping to democratize this type of 3D display. This unit will appeal to ordinary consumers who can use advanced smartphones to capture RGB-depth data. The Portrait Display can quickly ingest this format to show off 3D images of family, pets and more. Apparent image quality is probably on the order of 720p.

The 4K monitor is aimed at professionals in 3D design activities like games, graphics, VFX, architecture, advertising, volumetric capture and more. For many, it is a secondary monitor that allows the artist to see their design in a realistic 3D way rather than the rendered images they get on 2D monitors. It is priced at $3,000 and has an apparent resolution of perhaps 1080p.

Stepping up to 8K is a big jump in price – $20K but on sale now for $17.5K. But this size also makes a big difference in the impression it creates. Apparent resolution is probably on the order of 4K. This resolution has appeal in professional design applications and retail and signage applications.

This display is based on LCD technology and is a 10-bit panel, so it can potentially support HDR mage display, although LGF does not market it as having this capability. There may be a need for an HDR version in professional design markets, but its value at retail may be less.

It can also be integrated with a Leap Motion hand tracker to create a gesture interface. We saw a simple version of this, developed for a specific customer, during our visit.

Content creation is always a concern as well. CAD files and content created with tools like Maya and Blender can be imported into a Unity or Unreal game engine and formatted for display on the LGF monitors. Camera capture using volumetric rigs works very well, and LGF even has a rail-based system that snaps 70 images as the DSC moves along the rail. Capturing a 3D image of the author and display was possible with this approach on the 8K monitor, only seconds after capture. Pretty impressive.

LGF has done a lot of work to create plug-ins and translation software to allow assets in dozens of formats to be converted to formats these displays can use. While game engines can do the bulk of this work, the displays can ingest gltf, RGBD, its own “quilt” format and more directly.

We also asked about a larger 55” to 65” class 8K version. “This is probably the question our customers ask us the most about, noted Shawn Frayne, company CEO. “We are certainly considering this option, and you will be the first to know!” I doubt that but nice of him to say so. Check out the video below as well.

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