Doing VR without a headset is a longterm goal in the immersive tech industry. We’re not there yet but the new Looking Glass holographic display is a major step toward that end. The device which sits on your desk or table as a separate display and lets you view and interact with 3D objects and scenes. This is actually a 3D display instead of what we know as virtual reality. You cannot walk around an object as in full room-scale VR, but it’s still fascinating.
And it feels like it’s straight out of Star Wars.
The innovative display just launched on Kickstarter and for the next 20 hours, you can pick up one of two sizes, 8.9″ or 15.6″, at a deeply discounted 33% off on preorder. As always with Kickstarter, make sure you’re aware of possible delays and potential product issues.
VR without a headset
Here are the details from The Verge,
The Looking Glass . . . creates 45 distinct views of the three-dimensional model and uses a lenticular lens to display those views from different angles to create the holographic effect that lets you see different parts of the object depending on where you’re looking at it.
The company envisions that The Looking Glass display will be used by artists and workers who already need to work in 3D — people like game developers, product designers, industrial engineers, and architects — to get a new perspective on their projects. You’ll also be able to connect devices like the Leap Motion controller, Nintendo’s Joy-Con controllers, or other motion-controlling devices to interact with your holographic images in real time.
CNET has a short video of the 3D display in action.
You can foresee a wealth of design applications for the device especially in sharing 3D creations. And in education, it provides an immersive experience of without students isolated in their own headsets. Of course, there are other options here, especially Z-Space which offers more features and a significantly larger display but does require users to wear lightweight glasses.
But what about AR?
As good as the Looking Glass solution is for VR without a headset, Mixed and Augmented Reality lurk in the distance. Once you can drop a 3D object on your tabletop, will you really want it confined to a glass box? It almost feels like a Joseph Cornell creation, like the glass-fronted boxes the artist used to arrange Victorian bric-a-brac and found objects.
Just in a digital format.
That’s not to say artists, designers, and others will miss the opportunities here – anything that gets us closer to VR without a headset is incredibly useful. For product design, it could an essential tool.
But down the road (2020 or so) this just seems to fall directly into the Apple AR target area. Do you want 3D objects? Here they are on your desk using only a minimalist pair of glasses. And you’ll be able to walk around them and poke them if you like. Of course, any Apple AR solution will need glasses. But they’ll quickly become a status symbol and not look anything like Magic Leap’s steam punk eyewear.
For now, The Looking Glass is an incredibly interesting display and another small sign that our flat screen world is beginning to unravel.
You can check it out on Kickstarter (as always, due diligence advised).
Emory Craig is a writer, speaker, and VR consultant with extensive experience in art, new media, and higher education. He speaks at global conferences on innovation, education, and ethical technology in the future. He has published widely and worked with the US Agency for International Development, the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Living at the intersection of learning, games, and immersive storytelling, he is fascinated by AI-based avatars, digital twins, and the ethical implications of blurring the boundaries between the real and the virtual.