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HoloLamp Puts 3D Objects On Your Desk, No Headset Necessary

Who wants to wear bulky glasses if augmented reality can be projected in plain sight?

Unless you need corrective lenses or want to look cool on the beach, nobody wants to wear glasses.

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This is the standpoint of HoloLamp. While Microsoft’s Hololens puts 3D objects in front of your face using a bulky headset, HoloLamp is a tabletop projector that projects 3D images right into your environment. (Note that despite the name, HoloLamp is completely unrelated to Microsoft.)

In other words, it promises the possibility of augmented reality, without making you wear something. An architect looking at Blueprints in Hololens would need to put on 1.2-pound headset to do so–and make sure it’s charged, first. An architect looking at blueprints with the HoloLamp would need only look at their drafting desk.

“We believe that there is a market for hands free / glasses free [augmented reality] devices,” says HoloLamp co-founder Alan Jay, a man who in his past life co-founded IMDb. His partner Guillaume Chican is an expert in applied math who first developed the project.

Featured on Prosthetic Knowledge, HoloLamp works by exploiting the –an age old art technique which creates the illusion of 3D even though an image is just 2D. With HoloLamp, an image–like a chess board–is projected onto a surface. Meanwhile, a camera system inside HoloLamp tracks the viewer’s perspective. Then, the system processes the image via a connected PC to continuously adjust to your point of view, so that as you walk around a room, the image continues looking 3D.

HoloLamp is not the first to play with Trompe l’oeil displays. Notably, researcher Johnny Lee made an early name for himself by demonstrating how hacked Nintendo Wii remotes could work with a television to make any 2D TV appear 3D to a viewer. (Today, Lee is a technical lead at Google on its Project Tango augmented reality platform.)

But HoloLamp does present a compelling use case of this approach to graphics, because to the end user there’s no point of friction, like strange glasses, to see it. An everyday projection simply looks 3D. And in the video above, the HoloLamp team demonstrates how such an environmentally-based display could interact easily with everyday objects–imagine a toy rocket that could shoot imaginary flames when placed near the lamp. It’s incredibly similar to argodesign’s vision for RoomE, aka Interactive Light, but in 3D.

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However, HoloLamp isn’t actually quite so advanced yet. Its current build lacks the capability of tracking objects. But even more challenging, its 3D technology can only work for one viewer in the room. Everyone else will simply see a plain old 2D projection.

Perhaps this is not a product-killing limitation. “We have had a number of business users talk about enterprise opportunities where one person is presenting to another, and the 3D elements would add a sense of engagement and the ability to present across a table,” says Jay. Similarly, to someone at their own desk, or working alone in their own kitchen, a screen-for-one may be just fine. After all, it works for tablets and phones.

Still, for HoloLamp to work, they’ll need to make person-to-person 3D tradeoff simple, seamless, and rarely confused. Otherwise, the novelty will be more of a headache than it’s worth.

HoloLamp should hit Kickstarter in March, at which time you’ll be able to pre-order one of your own.

About the author

Mark Wilson is a senior writer at Fast Company. He started Philanthroper.com, a simple way to give back every day.

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