Today, we’re excited to announce a new collaboration between Vimeo Creator Labs and Looking Glass Factory. One of the biggest reasons I started Creator Labs all those years ago (okay, less than 2 years ago, but still) was to help Vimeo play a larger role in the immersive technology space. It’s a mission that led us to launch open-source projects and demos such as the Unity SDK, WebVR (A-frame) plugin, and livestreaming volumetric video. But these are only the first steps in taking the things Vimeo does really well (transcoding, live streaming tech, fast video delivery) and making them more accessible to emerging, innovative mediums like VR and AR. We love the idea of bringing the same tools Vimeo already offers our incredible community of filmmakers and storytellers, to a whole new world of interactive creators. In many ways, Looking Glass Factory embodies that exact ideology. Based in Greenpoint Brooklyn — a stone’s throw from our Bushwick offices, where Creator Labs lives and dreams — Looking Glass Factory came onto our radar as a company taking a unique approach to creating immersive experiences in the growing, boundary-pushing landscape of immersive mediums (like VR and AR).
Looking Glass Factory recently wrapped up a massively successful Kickstarter campaign and their promise is to bring a holographic display to your desk. Using a patent-pending combination of lightfield and volumetric display technologies, The Looking Glass generates 45 distinct views of a three-dimensional scene at 60FPS. In layman’s terms, this means that as you move around the Looking Glass, your eyes are exposed to different sets of 3D information, creating a life-like, 3D experience for groups of people without the need of VR or AR headgear. I’ll be honest though, when I first heard about The Looking Glass, like most people, I was skeptical. Is it actually 3D? Is it just an illusion like pepper’s ghost or the Tupac “hologram”? So, one Saturday last September, Shawn Frayne, the CEO of Looking Glass Factory, was gracious enough to invite me over to their HQ to see what it’s all about. In fact, he was so confident he even let me borrow one of their magical displays. Long story short, I was impressed. It really does feel like physical objects are sitting right inside the glass (or acrylic, to be more specific). And the best part, which The Looking Glass team loves to drill into your head: you don’t need to wear a clunky VR/AR headset. I repeat, no headset! However, while the Looking Glass team has gone to great lengths to build incredibly simple and easy-to-use tools for their creators (something that really resonates with us, from a user experience perspective, it was distracting to have to jump from experience to experience by opening up different .exe files. We wanted to see more curated content and watch that content back-to-back (just like TV!). This gave us an idea. Under the hood, The Looking Glass simply displays a video, albeit a very uniquely designed video. Basically, The Looking Glass “holograms” are a 5×9 grid of a 3D scene, where each view is a slightly different angle.
So, once we fully grasped the format, we started recording and uploading Looking Glass holograms to Vimeo. We then added those holograms to a Vimeo channel and built an app that streams the curated holograms straight into The Looking Glass. Now, you can sit back, relax, and binge watch as many holograms as your 3D vision desires. All of this hologram streaming magic is made possible thanks to Unity, The Looking Glass SDK, and the Vimeo SDK. And now thanks to our collaboration with The Looking Glass Factory team, 3D creators can watch the first streaming holographic video channel. A holographic video of the Vimeo office dog, Moose, inside The Looking Glass display. But that’s not all, for our 3D creators who want to build and upload their own holograms we’ve put together a helpful tutorial to guide you through the process. Check it out here. This way, as soon as The Looking Glass starts shipping in December, you’ll be one of the first 3D creators to be part of this new frontier. Also, be sure to sign up for our mailing list and we’ll keep you updated on all things Creator Labs. We’re excited about the future of immersive content. To echo Shawn, this is a major milestone that opens up a whole new world of storytelling opportunities, and we can’t wait to find new ways to empower the next generation of creators.