The screens you look at all day are probably good old 2D panels. TVs and phones had a brief flirtation with 3D some years back, but the benefits were outweighed by the cost and other drawbacks. 3D still exists in certain niches, though. A company called Looking Glass Factory has just unveiled its second-generation holographic displays. They aren’t cheap, but the technology is mature enough that designers or animators might actually want to drop the cash on one.
The new holographic displays come in two versions: a 4K panel at 15.6 inches and an 8K at 32 inches. You don’t need glasses to view the 3D holographic images, and there’s no “sweet spot” like some past glasses-free 3D systems. Looking Glass creates images that appear to have depth by projecting 45 to 100 simultaneous views of the same image. These images are all presented at slightly different angles, so you can move around, and the 3D illusion follows you around.
The second-gen holographic screens improve on the original with a “blockless” design. That means the screen itself is thinner, and the 3D effect is more pronounced. The images appear to float outside of the screen in real life. The video below will help you visualize the perspective-shifting effects, but you can’t truly appreciate 3D unless you’re looking at the genuine article. The optics in the Gen 2 panels have also improved, reducing reflections and making it easier for groups to gather around the holograms.
Looking Glass’ new 4K screen is expensive even for a professional tool at $3,000, but that’s not unheard of for high-end monitors. The 8K Gen 2 is a tougher sell at $17,500. Both Gen 2 panels are aimed at the enterprise, but the 8K especially. No one’s spending that kind of cash on a screen just to tinker with holograms. For consumers, Looking Glass launched a tiny 7.9-inch portrait holo monitor in December. It retails for $299, but it doesn’t have all the features of the larger ones.
You will need a moderately powerful video card to use the Gen 2 holographic displays, and that can be a tall order these days with the ongoing GPU shortage. The 4K monitor requires at least an Nvidia RTX 1060, and the 8K version needs an RTX 3090. If you don’t have one, get ready to tack on another $2,000-3,000. Interested parties can pre-order the screens now for shipping later this year. Maybe you’ll be able to buy a GPU for less than a small fortune by then.