No glasses, no goggles: Volume uses ‘lightfolding’ to create 3D images in a box

A brand new display technology enables a 3D experience without special rooms, headsets, or glasses. Brooklyn and Hong Kong-based startup Looking Glass took a big step in fulfilling the dream of co-founder and CEO Shawn Frayne with today’s launch of Volume, described as the “world’s first affordable volumetric display.”

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) have topped tech and gaming news for the past two years with VR’s immersive and AR’s additive experiences. Those technologies will continue to develop and find respective universes of applications, but the hardware required for VR and AR is an obstacle. Whether you have to put on glasses with special lenses, a cardboard frame in which to place your smartphone, or full VR headgear, the hardware you need to wear to get the experience can be off-putting. Sharing the experience is impossible unless others have the same headwear. Awkward.

“With the VR and AR technologies to date, enjoying 3D content has been a very isolating and singular experience enjoyed by one person through a VR headset or 3D glasses,” Frayne said. “But with Volume, we’re excited to introduce a new future where anyone can bring 3D creations to life and share them socially in the physical world.”

Volume is a display that you can view with a group. You can see 3D content with a 120-degree field of vision from the front and back of the display. The patented technology employed in Volume is called “lightfolding,” a new method for creating 3D images in a volumetric display by channeling light.

The term “volumetric display” refers to an end result, not the technology that enables it. With a volumetric display, you look at width, height, and depth, just as you view the world. A normal flat-panel display has pixels, points of light arranged in two dimensions, that turn on or off and change colors. With a volumetric display, you see the same thing in three dimensions. The Volume display has more than 2 million 3D pixels, also called “voxels.” The voxels can individually display up to 16.7 million colors, called “true color.”

Looking Glass’s Lightfolding technology “suspends millions of points of light in a physical three-dimensional space with no moving parts.” The image you see is not the same as a hologram. With Volume, the light pixels are “channeled” into a 3D space. So the pixels (voxels) aren’t actually there physically, but are displayed at specific 3D locations.

The breakthrough with lightfolding allows Looking Glass to sell Volume at about 1/100th the price of more traditional volumetric displays, hence it’s the “world’s first affordable volumetric display.”

Physically, Volume measures 21.2 inches high by 10.6 inches wide by 7.6 inches deep. The actual display, which you can view from front or back, is 5.9 inches high by 10.1 inches wide by 7.6 inches deep. Final production units will weigh approximately 30 pounds. Volume connects to a PC or Mac via an HDMI cable and has internal speakers and a touchscreen on the front surface.

The initial market for Volume is primarily developers. A Hypercube Unity software development kit (SDK) on the Unity Asset Store can be downloaded for free so Unity 3D developers can display their work with Volume. Looking Glass has assembled a volumetric app library from which creators can download apps for Volume that will work with major 3D creation programs and with 2D Adobe Animate and Photoshop (via volumetric creation plugins).

As a new display technology that brings relative affordability to visual 3D experience without needing headgear or special glasses, Volume has potential for a wide range of applications from entertainment and information reference to education and medicine.

“What is most exciting about this technology is the velocity at which content can be generated,” Looking Glass CTO and co-founder Alex Hornstein said. “Anyone who wants to create in 3D can now do so and see their creation come to life in Volume instantly — a future we only dreamed of is now a possibility and we can’t wait to see how much further we can go.”

Volume is available for presale now starting at $999 and is scheduled to ship in April 2017.


Print your heart’s desire: Enter our giveaway to win a free Monoprice 3D printer

We’re giving away a $400 Monoprice MP Voxel 3D Printer. It's easy to use, especially for beginners, with its simple menu system and touchscreen display. It comes fully assembled so you can spend more time printing instead of setting up.
Emerging Tech

The best 3D printers of 2018

On the hunt for a new 3D printer? We've got your back. Whether you're a beginner or a seasoned veteran, this list of the best 3D printers has what you're looking for.
Product Review

This was 3D printed? With the Anycubic Photon, you can't tell

Never mind the fact that the Anycubic Photon 3D printer only costs 500 bucks. In terms of sheer print quality, this printer is on the same level as machines that cost six times as much.
Emerging Tech

Makerbot is back with a new 3D printer that’s faster and more precise than ever

MakerBot's new Method 3D printer aims to bridge the gap between home 3D printers and more industrial 3D printing tech. Here are a few of the tantalizing things you can expect from it.
Emerging Tech

This cryptocurrency wallet for kids isn’t nearly as stupid as it sounds

So you’ve taught your 6-year-old child to read, write, and play nice with others. What’s next? Give them a base understanding of cryptocurrency, of course. This Kickstarter aims to help.
Emerging Tech

Light, speed: Lighting kit for DJI Mavic 2 lets you fly and film in the dark

Lume Cube, maker of small battery-powered LED lights for mobile photography, has announced a new lighting kit built specifically for the DJI Mavic 2 -- the first of its kind. Already our favorite drone, this makes the Mavic 2 even better.
Emerging Tech

Virgin Galactic’s latest test flight takes it to the edge of space

Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic has successfully carried out its fourth powered flight in Mojave, California. It was the company's most ambitious test flight yet -- and bodes well for the future.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

We’re going to the Red Planet! All the past, present, and future missions to Mars

SpaceX isn't the only organization pining to visit the Red Planet. Here's a detailed list of all operational and planned missions to Mars, along with explanations of their objectives, spacecraft details, and mission proposals.
Emerging Tech

There’s a giant EMP blaster in New Mexico. Don’t worry, it’s here to protect us

An electromagnetic pulse has the potential to disable virtually all electronics within a large area. To help protect against such a threat is a new, friendly EMP emitter. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

There’s a new lab-grown meat startup on the block — and it has a secret weapon

Aleph Farms is developing lab-grown steaks with the same flavor, shape, texture, and structure as the real thing using beef cells isolated from living cows. Coming soon to a store near you?
Smart Home

This A.I.-enabled tech brings cutting-edge automation to grocery stores

Takeoff Technologies is working to make grocery deliveries fast, accurate, and convenient using A.I.-enabled technology to augment robotic grocery orders that can be completed in minutes.
Emerging Tech

Postmates’ to roll out Minion-like autonomous delivery robots in 2019

Postmates is about to employ a cute little robot to work alongside its human delivery personnel. Called Serve, the wheel-based bot can carry items weighing up to 50 pounds and has a range of 30 miles.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.