Holography Pioneer Gives Display Screens a New Dimension

Holographic technology pioneer Shawn Frayne has a clear vision of how display screens will evolve in the not-so-distant future.

The founder of Looking Glass Factory, Frayne has been developing holographic display technology for more than 20 years. He recently took part in a 4Front podcast to discuss the new dimension he hopes to bring to our digital lives.

Born and raised in Tampa, Florida, Frayne began his journey into the third dimension of imaging with a holography course while studying at MIT. After graduation, he continued his work in 3D holography, and in 2014 he founded Looking Glass Factory.

Looking Glass’s most recent commercial product is the $249 Looking Glass Portrait, a digital picture frame (available for pre-order) that allows customers to convert photos taken with a smartphone to 3D images. Better yet, as with all of the company’s products, the frame’s 3D technology doesn’t require viewers to strap on a bulky headset.

In many ways, the Looking Glass Portrait is a product of the COVID-19 pandemic. Through 2019, the company was focused on larger 3D display screens for public events and for industrial and scientific use. The smaller portrait screen was on the drawing board but hadn’t moved into development. Then, the pandemic changed everything in early 2020.

“We quickly realized the obvious, which is that folks aren’t interested in big holographic experiences for the time being,” says Frayne, “and if we’re going to survive and thrive as a company, we have to get a piece of the hologram onto folks’ home office desks and into their home office studios. So we very rapidly turned that skunkworks product into a real product.”

At a higher view, Frayne thinks holographic displays in a variety of sizes and applications will become commonplace. Although 2D screens aren’t going away any time soon, “there are a whole lot of things that holographic screens are particularly well suited for—for example, in the creation of 3D content in communication, in understanding difficult data sets,” he says. “The list is endless, and that’s part of the challenge for what we’re doing as a company: leading the charge in holographic displays that folks can actually buy and do things with and create holograms for.”

Frayne isn’t alone in seeing the inflection point for the holographic display market. According to a recent estimate from BIS Research, the market for holographic displays that don’t require headgear totaled about $607.6 million in 2020, and that will increase to about $1.83 billion by 2025. Significant drivers include not only demand for creative and artistic display products but also 3D’s increasing adoption for medical imaging and industrial applications, the report noted.

“One important step that’s going to be taken a bit faster than folks realize is that local holograms will become networks, complete with holographic displays and holographic interfaces,” Frayne says. “So you’ll be able to do things like take part in holographic communications and make connections with people around the world through systems like Looking Glass.”

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