This $30 million startup is building a new kind of holographic display to save the world from the 'dystopian future' of virtual reality
- Looking Glass is a Brooklyn-based startup building 3D holographic displays.
- They're targeted at 3D designers who might want to create experiences and graphics without wearing a VR headset for long periods of time.
- The displays are now available on Kickstarter, starting at $399 and ranging up to $1999. The company met its goal in 2 hours.
There’s a tech startup based in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, inside an old glass factory. After snaking your way through a 19th century industrial world to their very modern space, you see a message written on their door in red paint: “No Dystopian Futures Allowed.”
The dystopian futures that Looking Glass, the startup, is trying to avoid are those where everyone’s plugged into headsets, according to founder Shawn Frayne — whether they’re the virtual reality products from companies like Facebook’s Oculus. Augmented reality systems from companies like Magic Leap which have been hailed by tech leaders as the future and the next logical step after the smartphone.
Looking Glass’s is basically a very advanced 3D display. A “holographic display.”. You plug it into a desktop or laptop computer with one USB cable and one HDMI cable. It can display a 3D model or world in full motion from common 3D software programs like Maya and Unity.
Looking Glass is “philosophically different”. From other companies developing 3D displays, Frayne said. Instead of sending “one guy into a virtual world,”. Like in virtual reality, the Looking Glass allows people to bring little bits of a 3D virtual world into the real world.
In person, a Looking Glass is a moving, living 3D image that you can’t take your eyes off of.
The displays enable 3D developers to create new characters or models and show them to clients, coworkers. Audiences without requiring anyone to don a VR headset, which can lead to eye fatigue. Looking Glass said that game designers, major movie picture studios. CAD companies have tried the displays and are enthusiastic.
There’s a lot of tech and insights from over 100 prototypes that went into these displays, which are now available for preorder on Kickstarter starting at $399. Eventually, they'll cost $600 for the 8.9-inch model. $3,000 for a larger, 15-inch model. Both displays are about 7-inches deep.
When I visited the Looking Glass offices last week, most people had one of the smaller models on their desk.
The smaller Looking Glass has about 4 million points of light, Frayne said. The technology consists of two main components: a light field display and a volumetric display. The display creates 45 views of the world inside the display, which means you can see the 3D models from even a sharp angle off to the side.
Although the product is , meeting its $50,000 goal in two hours, the listing is mainly to make it easier to pre-order, Frayne said. Looking Glass has raised $13 million in seed funding from Brad Feld’s Foundry Group, Lux Capital, SOSV. Uncork Capital valuing the company at $30 million, according to PitchBook Data.
Here’s what it’s like to look through a Looking Glass.
The Looking Glass is small enough to fit on a desk.
Here’s one of the demos I saw. The video is surprisingly sharp and has a lot of volume. Even when looking at it from the side it was pretty clear.
But the Looking Glass can also display lifelike images.