NAB: Consumer-Ready Holograms Move Closer to Reality

"Every studio is asking when this will be," Light Field Lab CEO Jon Karafin tells THR.
Lucasfilm/Photofest
Princess Leia hologram in 'Star Wars' (1977)

Ever since Jon Karafin saw 1977's Star Wars, he's wanted to have a hologram like that movie's famous appearance of Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia beseeching, "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope."

At the ongoing NAB Show in Las Vegas, Karafin is now introducing details about his startup, Light Field Lab, and it's ambitious plan to develop a holographic display that consumers could use to watch glasses-free, holographic video in the home.

“It’s a dream that echoes in fiction,” Karafin, CEO of the new company, said, adding that he and his partners have already been getting "overwhelming" interest from Hollywood studios. “We have been having early discussions about the desire and what can be done with volumetric media," he told The Hollywood Reporter. "We have gotten a lot of feedback. Every studio is asking when this will be. There’s a huge demand for passive holographic viewing.”

Different technology firms have been loosely throwing around the term "hologram," but when pressed, Karafin asserted that what Light Field Lab aims to create is the real deal. He described his technical goals and revealed that the longer-term aim is to incorporate volumetric haptics, meaning it would bring touch into the experience.

Home entertainment is just one of many applications that Karfin envisions for this technology. He also cited entertainment at live venues and theme park attractions, as well as medical and educational applications.

Karfin is especially excited about potential in the cinema. "The real difference with 3D is there's no eyewear, and you have the ability to not only see it from your viewpoint but walk about it. It's going to be tough to tell it's not really there," he contended.

The development timetable that Karafin outlined is an ambitious one. The company is currently fabricating a small 3x5-inch prototype, which he said would resemble a flat-screen display but if you look at it, the hologram would appear in the space in front of the technology. He hopes to show this prototype in early 2018.

By mid-2018, Light Field Lab hopes to be accepting orders for development kits, which it wants to make available to content creators and other partners in early 2019. They could make content for the system in a number of ways including with 3D computer animation or using a light-field camera such as the one that his former employer, Lytro, launched a year ago at NAB (though the cost of such production is an open-ended question.) The aim is to have a full release API (application programming interface) by the end of 2019, which would allow developers to stream content to the display.

Karafin said Light Field Lab will be working on the home display in parallel with this work, but don't expect to see that before 2020 at the earliest.

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