Holograms were one of my favorite things when I was a kid. I had stickers and bookmarks of silver moons and stars that shimmered and moved in and out of sight, or horses galloping across a field when you tilted the images. Magical – and magically distracting in class, as I subtly moved my holographic notebooks and folders back and forth to watch the light show instead of paying attention to the teacher.
At the time, I didn’t understand the technology required to create holograms, which made them all the more magical, and I took it for granted that I would never be able to create my own. Children today will have no such illusions about optical illusions. Boston-based tech company Lumii is working on a technology they call “the first commercial light-field display engine”, and it’s essentially going to allow people to print their own holograms, using a combination of 2D and 3D methods. .
The startup started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where Matthew Hirsch, Thomas A. Baran, and Daniel Leithinger worked on doctoral programs. A combination of their respective areas of study led to the formation of Lumii and its lightfield technology, which is still in development, currently in a limited alpha testing phase. However, it is expected to hit the mainstream soon and recently attendees of Siggraph 2016 got a glimpse of the technology via – what else? – holographic selfies.
At the Lumii booth, visitors had their faces scanned in 3D to produce detailed, color images of themselves. Instead of receiving a 3D file or 3D print of their likeness, however, they watched their photos printed on a regular 2D inkjet printer. The prints that came out were anything but ordinary, however – they were 3D images with shimmering holographic backgrounds.
“The way we do it is, instead of using specialized optics like the lenses, we use algorithms to take a 3D pattern…and we turn it into special patterns, and when you print the patterns and overlay on top of each other, you get a 3D effect,” Baran said. “…It’s a full parallax image, which means you can look at it horizontally, turn your head and look at it vertically and still see the 3D effect.”
The technology generated a lot of interest from the crowds at Siggraph, as a growing gallery of hologram-like portraits piled up on the Lumii booth. Light field technology is not just a novelty, however. Sure, the ability to take holographic selfies is going to grab mainstream attention, but the technology has real potential to be useful across multiple industries. Advertising is a major target, but companies have already shown interest in medicine, architecture and construction.
Lightfield technology could also be a valuable tool for artists and creators – look at the incredible creativity that has been demonstrated in leveraging other forms of digital media to create art. Again, Lumii’s lightfield technology is still in alpha stage, but if you want to be the first to experience this new design method, you can sign up here to be an alpha tester. Discuss more in the 3D printed holography forum on 3DPB.com.
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