Hands-On: Looking Glass Portrait Holographic Display

A genuinely impressive hologram machine that doesn’t break the bank.

If watching decades of sci-fi movies and television like Star Wars and Back to the Future has taught me anything, it’s that holograms are the future of communication and entertainment.

Perhaps that explains my excitement around the Looking Glass Portrait, a desktop holographic display designed for artists, designers, developers, filmmakers, photographers, and various other creative professionals looking to take their craft to the next level. Despite its many features, the device is relatively easy to use, even for those brand new to immersive technology.

I was fortunate enough to go hands-on with Looking Glass Portrait and after a few weeks of experimentation, I can safely say the device is worth its price. From the impressive 3D visuals to the easy-to-use software, Looking Glass Factory has crafted an impressive hologram machine that doesn’t break the bank, which is a rare combination in today’s market.

Looking Glass Portrait features two primary modes of operation: Desktop Mode and Standalone Mode. By plugging the device into your computer (Mac or PC) via a standard USB-C and HDMI cable, you’re able to use it as a secondary 3D monitor. You can then use the HoloPlay Studio software to easily drag and drop new holograms onto the device, develop applications using plugins for programs like Unity and Unreal Engine, and more.

Standalone Mode is exactly what it sounds like. A built-in Raspberry Pi 4 allows you to view roughly 1,000 holographic photos and videos on a loop without the need for a computer. All you have to do is plug the Portrait into a power source and use the touch controls located on the side of the device to cycle through content. It’s a painfully easy process, almost to a surprising degree.

Looking Glass Portrait comes with a generous selection of demo holograms you can try right out of the box. This includes everything from abstract art and still photography to 3D models and various other immersive content. You also have the ability to download holograms from other Looking Glass creators. All you need to do is download a file from lookingglassfactory.com and drag it into the playlist folder that opens automatically when you plug the device into your computer.

You can also import your own 3D photos and videos. Compatible files include iPhone Portrait photos, android portrait photos, RGBD photos/videos, quilt images & videos, and light field photosets. During my time with the device, I was able to upload a 3D selfie using the Portrait Mode on my iPhone 12. The process was relatively straightforward. All I had to do was snap the photo, send it to my computer, and import the file using HoloPlay Studio. Those with an iPhone 12 Pro or any iPhone with LiDAR can capture even more detailed photos with ease.

While the Looking Glass Portrait may be the smallest of Looking Glass Factory’s holographic displays (the company also offers 16″, 32″, and 65″ models), the potential use cases are virtually endless. Whether you’re a designer looking for an easy way to visualize your projects in 3D or a filmmaker curious about the world of 3D storytelling, the Portrait is an excellent addition to any creative professional’s arsenal of tools.

Personally, I’ve enjoyed using the device as a custom art gallery. I’ve spent hours searching for new 3D photos and videos from a wide range of talented creators, amassing a sizable catalog of immersive art and memories in the process. Moving forward, I’d be curious to experiment with some of the interactive features powered by the Azure Kinect spatial tracking kit.

Looking Glass Portrait is available now starting at $399. You also have the option to purchase 2D-to-3D conversion credits which can be used to convert “two-dimensional memories into holographic memories.”

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Image Credit: Looking Glass Factory

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