The teeth in the thick-walled glass box look like they're embedded, a 3D model in a cube. Walk closer, and you can see that this box is a display, and it's all pixels. The Looking Glass Pro feels like a magic box. But the box is actually a PC, and the whole system is meant to look at objects that can be conjured into space without needing VR goggles or glasses. Imagine a holographic workstation of the future, and maybe this is it.
The firstlaunched last year: the glasses-free 3D effect felt stunning, but needed to plugged into a PC. The new Looking Glass Pro is a full self-contained system that can be set up to access 3D files and interact with them, adding new touchscreen controls. It works with a mouse too, or via air gestures using a connected controller, and it has its own computer in the back with ports to boot.
Who would use something like this, exactly? Orthodontists, would you believe?
Shawn Frayne, the co-founder and CEO of the Brooklyn-based Looking Glass Factory, says the self-contained pro system was created to meet requests from businesses that wanted to install a 3D display system like this.
OrthoScience, an orthodontics app, is one of the first big practical apps for Looking Glass. It's designed to look at 3D dental scans. I spin a scan of teeth around with my fingers, or use a mouse to move a cursor in 3D as it hugs the model and crawls around the jawline. A tap of my fingers can refocus the image on where I'm interested.
A flip-out second screen on the side of the Looking Glass Pro is intended as a control panel to bring up, say, multiple dental scans, or 3D models of other things. Maybe rare, soon-to-be-auctioned jewelry in a high-end showroom, Frayne suggests.
The 15.6-inch Looking Glass Pro display isn't as high-res as a regular monitor, but from a distance it captures a sense of reality that can be uncanny. A 3D recreation of James Bond 007's iconic pistol, displayed in the box, looks like a museum exhibit rather than a screen. (See Lori Grunin's 2018 story fortechnology.)
The Intel NUC 8 VR NUC8i7HVK inside the Looking Glass Pro is athat's powerful and designed to run small wearable VR rigs. There's an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports, USB-C and an SD card slot in the back for expandability. The system can access OBJ, glTF and GLB 3D file formats, can connect to Unity and Unreal Engine via a HoloPlay 3D content SDK, and can look at lightfield photographs. It's intended to be a flexible 3D object toolbox.
Frayne also showed me a 360-degree video clip that could be viewed on the Looking Glass, suggesting that videos could be demoed on it. I found the 3D models a more compelling pitch, though. I look at a 3D model of a heart, spinning it in space through the display's thick glass. What if a Looking Glass display could be a quick way to conjure 3D files to look at before, maybe, 3D printing them? There's something instantly magical about the idea of a box that seems to make things appear.
The Looking Glass Pro is a pricey $6,000, which includes enterprise software licenses. Anyone considering getting one should seriously take a look at one in person first. But even though I'd like to see the images be crisper, and work better at all angles... I'm already impressed.