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New software will transform 2D photos into 3D holographic images for display

Looking Glass Portrait - Your first personal holographic display

Wouldn’t it be great to be able to transform any boring, flat image into a three-dimensional hologram for your viewing pleasure? That, in essence, is the promise of holographic tech startup Looking Glass Factory’s newly announced cloud-based service. Think of it like one of those online web services that translates one file format (say, JPGs) into another (say, PDFs), only way cooler.

“Everyone has taken thousands of photos over the years — photos of birthday parties, of a child’s first steps, and of pets we love,” the company says in its press materials. “Now, all of these memories can live again as more realistic three-dimensional holographic photos. It does not matter if the photos were originally captured by a point-and-shoot camera, an Android phone, or an iPhone — any 2D photo will work.”

To carry out the image conversion, customers will soon be able to visit a portal on Looking Glass’ website that’s set to launch this spring. The process requires no programming, and is instead a simple point-and-click conversion process. It requires the Looking Glass Portrait device, a desktop holographic display that is just wrapping up its Kickstarter campaign, in order to view the converted holographic images. The display itself costs $250 ($350 following the campaign), while carrying out the photographic conversion costs $20 per 100 photos. Portrait photos, such as those taken on a newer iPhone, are free to incorporate into the HoloPlay Studio software as these already contain depth maps, and therefore require no special processing.

“This process of 2D to 3D hologram conversion happens in two steps,” Shawn Frayne, CEO of Looking Glass Factory, told Digital Trends. “Step one is [that] we apply a machine learning-based algorithm to infer depth for different types of 2D photos. This is based on a large set of sample photos, that act as the core input into the algorithm. This step results in a depth image of the original photo, where the various shades of the depth image indicate the approximate depth of each part of the corresponding color image.”

He continued: “Step two uses this depth image and RGB image pair to extrapolate the dozens of different perspectives, or images, necessary for display in Looking Glass Portrait as a holographic photo. This is accomplished through HoloPlay Studio, our editing software for holographic media.”

As with any Kickstarter campaign, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks associated with crowdfunding campaigns. This can include products that ship late, not as described, or not at all.

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Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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