Once or twice a year I see something that really makes me go “wow.” Light Field Lab’s did it to me twice, first in 2021, and just last week. During my last visit to Light Field Lab, I saw my first true digital hologram— it was as real as anything else in the room. Their SolidLight displays are a completely new method of creating 3D objects that appear to be real and placing them in the physical world. They look real to the eye, but are formed with nothing but light. No glasses are required to see them, which is why their SolidLight naked-eye holograms were named one of the Best Inventions of 2022 by TIME.
The CEO of Light Field Lab, Jon Karafin, ushered me in to meet the newest member of the Light Field Lab team, the disembodied head of an Aztec-style deity which introduced itself as the “Creator of Light.” He wanted to talk about the formation of the universe, making me think our interaction was scripted, but when we started talking about where the deity went to school and what he had for lunch, it was soon apparent someone was pulling his virtual strings. The Creator of Light looked real. Photo-realistic, like the Chameleon I saw on my first visit which ate a fly made out of light. The advanced interaction added another level of immersion.
If I wasn’t visiting a company that makes holographic technology, I would have thought I was speaking with a person wearing a mask— it looked that real. What I witnessed was the first of Light Field Lab’s Defy™ experiences. The team later revealed that I was interacting with a SolidLight hologram being computationally rendered in real-time by a game engine. The hologram’s eyes seemed to be following me around the room. After getting to know me, his deity-ness invited me to touch his face, and when I did, my hand passed right through the hologram.
The hologram was formed using LFL’s latest SolidLight panel modulating over 2.5 Billion pixels. Unlike my last meeting, this demonstration leveraged their new WaveTracing™ engine that performs billions of wavefront computations in real-time to form the interactive holographic objects. The WaveTracer is seamlessly integrated into industry standard 3D engines, like Unreal and Unity.
SolidLight will launch for applications within the global video wall market, which encompasses multiple verticals like corporate spaces, entertainment venues, and public displays. Fortune Business Insights says the market size for LED Video Walls was $15.91 Billion in 2018 and is projected to reach $36.16 Billion by 2026.
Of course, many competitive technologies exist within the overall display market claiming to do holographic things— but none are actual holograms. For example, Microsoft has an AR headset called the HoloLens, which is actually stereoscopic and not holographic— meaning you see only right and left-eye images— not real objects.
Kino-Mo’s HYPERVSN system is also advertised as “holographic” and always draws a crowd at CES with “floating” images of burgers, sneakers, and even investor Mark Cuban. Their product is actually a spinning LED fan that only creates 2D images— eye catching, but janky and not holographic. Looking Glass sells autostereoscopic displays they say are “holographic,” but are actually lenticular— also not holographic. Another example is Dimenco, a company that produces autostereoscopic displays leveraging eye-tracking and used in Acer’s 3D laptops– interesting, but still not holographic.
Real holograms are important to NCSOFT, a global leader in interactive experiences and Light Field Lab’s Series B lead investor. “Light Field Lab is building the future of immersive experiences and we are pleased to support the team in bringing true holograms to life,” said Dr. Songyee Yoon, chief strategy officer, NCSOFT. “Being able to see, deliver and interact with 3D content without any assistive peripheral devices will substantially advance the consumer adoption of SolidLight, not just in the entertainment space, but also the way in which we interact and collaborate through remote technologies.”
Light Field Lab is based in San Jose, California, and was founded in 2017 by Lytro veterans Karafin, Brendan Bevensee, and Ed Ibe. The Company has raised a total of $85M, and is backed by industry luminaries Bill Gates (Gates Frontier) and Vinod Khosla (Khosla Ventures), the VC arms of market leaders Bosch, Forvia, LG, Liberty Global, NTT Docomo, Samsung, and Verizon, and a prestigious list of venture capital firms, national technology funds, and strategic corporate partners including AVG, ACME Capital, Comcast, Corning, NCSOFT, OTOY, R7 Partners, and Taiwania Capital.