By Debra Kaufman

June 16, 2020

Reading Time:
7 Minutes

Holographic (often interchangeable with light field) capture and display has piqued the interest of numerous industry sectors that see it as a way to create innovative products and gain a competitive edge. According to market researcher Latest Herald, “the holographic display market is anticipated to record a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of around 28.48 percent during the forecast period [of] 2019-2027.” Allied Market Research projects the value of the entire display market will reach over $206 billion by 2025.

Alexis Macklin, Research Manager Greenlight Insights
Alexis Macklin, Research Manager Greenlight Insights

Among the many industry sectors that will be impacted by holographic displays are media and entertainment, which has already embraced augmented reality, virtual reality, retail, automotive, energy, medical and the military. All have been exploring and testing holographic displays.

“There are a lot of R&D type projects across a lot of different industry verticals,” explains Greenlight Insights founder and Chief Executive Clifton Dawson. “Industries that currently rely on visualizing 3D assets as part of the critical workflow have been relatively quick to investigate this technology and invest time and resources into it.”

Last year saw the debut of the IDEA (Immersive Digital Experiences Alliance) Group, whose mandate is to develop “a family of royalty-free technical specifications that define interoperable interfaces and exchange formats to support the end-to-end conveyance of immersive volumetric and/or light field media.”

“With IDEA Group, some of the biggest players are working together,” says Greenlight Insights Research Manager Alexis Macklin. “It’s an important step to develop infrastructure and agree on terms.” Macklin notes that developers like Light Field Lab are “really an important part of how this field progresses.” Other IDEA Group members include OTOY, Looking Glass, Visby, Gridraster, Pluto, Charter, Cox and CableLabs.  

HoloWire talked to experts in the field to get their take on the potential impact of holography on these industry segments.

Philip Lelyveld, USC Entertainment Technology Center
Philip Lelyveld, USC Entertainment Technology Center

This market sector, broken down, is highly valuable: amusement parks at $400 billion in worldwide economic impact (per the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions); videogames and recorded music at $400+ billion (Futuresource); cinemas at $33 billion (Rentrak) and live music at $10 billion (Statista).

At USC’s Entertainment Technology Center, program director Philip Lelyveld notes that holograms are an organic next step to an on-going evolution in entertainment. “People always want a better experience,” he says.

Mission Rock Digital consultant and Chief Technology Officer Pete Ludé, who is IDEA Group chair, believes that out-of-home holographic experiences will be first. “Theme parks can definitely use these enhanced imaging technologies,” he says. “Some theme parks already use 3D glasses to see projected images, but ambient light degrades it and 3D glasses don’t work well. An emissive light field display solves all those problems.”

Macklin agrees that out-of-home entertainment — a large-scale 3D immersive experience without headsets or glasses — is ripe for development. “It’s already in the early stages, but huge popularity has emerged,” she says. “Light field can make those experiences more realistic, more immersive.”

Lelyveld talks about the many uses of light field displays for in-home entertainment. “Bringing the concert to the home is another idea, as well as theater in the round,” he says. “It becomes a new art form and creates new language. … [Light field imagery] could be a portal to another place, like looking through a window into another world. … The only limit is how many people could gather around it. If you can get the box sized so that several people can watch at once, it would be like the old days of TV. We don’t yet know all the ways it will work but it could be extremely compelling.”

Ludé agrees with Lelyveld that such a panel would be “like a window to look through and see a complex scene from different angles, with the actors next to me or in front of me, or an adventure scene with a very realistic landscape.”

V. Michael Bove, Co-founder/advisor Modern Mirror, Inc.
V. Michael Bove, Co-founder/advisor Modern Mirror, Inc.

The videogame industry will also benefit from light field displays, adds V. Michael Bove, co-founder and adviser for The Modern Mirror. “Light field displays will let you create an experience that is shareable with a group of people,” he says. “If you can provide that user experience without requiring people to wear the hardware, it opens a lot of scenarios.”

At Greenlight Insights, Macklin points out that light field capture will also play an important role in cinematic quality visual effects production. “As the demand for high quality VFX increases with all the different emerging platforms, something like light field capture can be able to shorten the pipeline,” she says.

Retail/fashion: According to a 2019 report from ZenithOptimedia, the retail market will be valued at $27 trillion a year by the end of 2020, with $600+ billion in advertising to influence purchases. Bove’s company specializes in visualization solutions for luxury fashion, and he points to the impact holograms will have on the retail industry as well. “In an effort to jumpstart brick-and-mortar stores, retail is experimenting with things that can happen in store that can’t on your iPad,” he says. “There’s definitely a market for 3D virtual fashion models.” The Modern Mirror, he adds is working on another compelling retail idea: “through body imaging, you could create a very high-quality 3D model of the individual consumer and see him/her in the virtual clothing.”  

Because fashion is digitally designed using CAD models, with sub-millimeter accuracy, Bove notes that designers will be able to “just drop in the model and the result really enhances the user experience.”

Dawson adds that digital signage and retail are prime environments for light field displays. “To be able to contextualize information graphically is something that retailers and cities are interested in investing in also,” he says.

Due to the coronavirus, digital runway shows are under scrutiny as big events might not be stageable. Light field display, notes Bove, would allow designers to stage an event in 20 different locations globally. “It’s like being at a [real-life] fashion runway event, with the same models, the same garments,” he says.

Lelyveld adds that remote custom fitting of garments is another potential retail use for light field technology, “especially in pandemic times and the need for social distancing.”

Energy/Medical/Science: According to Reports and Data, the visualization and 3D-rendering software market is expected to grow to $3.7 billion by 2026.

Clifton Dawson, CEO Greenlight Insights
Clifton Dawson, CEO Greenlight Insights

These industries have one important requirement in common: The need to visualize large amounts of data. Data visualization, the graphical representation of data, has relied on a range of visual elements including charts, graphs and maps to create a more accessible way to comprehend patterns, trends and other information. Bove points out that there’s currently “an explosion of high-quality 3D data,” adding, “the content has now far exceeded our capacity to visualize it. This is going to be a real driver for light field displays.”

Ludé agrees, noting, “In the early days of molecular modeling, geo-spatial exploration and modeling, cartography couldn’t be seen properly in 2D. Being able to display the data in 3D was very attractive. And everything that was made better by stereoscopic 3D is made way, way better by light field display.”

At Greenlight Insights, Dawson highlights that numerous important industries that rely on 3D asset visualization have been eager to invest time and resources into investigating light-field technology. “Industries like high-end medical imaging are already piloting or developing ecosystems,” he says.

Lelyveld says holograms are ideal for team collaboration. “It’s a better technology for delivering visuals for individual and group viewing,” he says. “Those great strengths will drive implementation in a multitude of industries. They’re already doing it with headsets, but holographic displays would be a fundamental improvement over current technologies.”

Bove adds that data visualization can extend into remote manipulation for such use cases as micro-surgery or robots in space. “Industrial, medical and military applications need high quality visualization of remote images, and those tend to require high comfort and high accuracy,” he says. “Light field displays are very, very good for that.”  

Military: The military has a long history of funding projects to prove the uses of innovative technologies. For its 2020 budget, Pentagon Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist reported that the $750 billion allocated included almost $104 billion for its research, development, test and evaluation fund, the largest such request in 70 years. Their projects included research focused on light field capture and display.

“The Department of Defense has the requirements and the budgets for projects such as 3D modeling of ballistics and landscapes and ordinances,” says Ludé. “They’re also doing a lot of work on holographic displays for the U.S. Navy on aircraft carriers.”

Pete Lude, Mission Rock Digital
Pete Lude, Mission Rock Digital

Lelyveld notes that “large technologies have often been driven by the military, oil & gas and medical industries. … I think the military will be the first to pick up holography,” he says. In National Defense magazine, Frost & Sullivan VP of Aerospace, Defense and Security Michael Blades analyzes the latest in AR and VR headsets for military training and simulation — and imagines a future in which users might not have to rely on any goggles or headsets. “A lot of these things … show a 3D representation of something,” he says. “What if that’s just generated by some sort of video that makes a three-dimensional fixture in front of you that you don’t need glasses for? That’s the interesting thing about the augmented reality is some of those applications, you may not even need glasses for it.”

Bove points out one of the reasons military groups suchas the Air Force Research Lab and the Pentagon are funding work in light field displays: “With typical 3D stereoscopic displays, there’s the problem of vergence accommodation conflict caused by the conflicting depth cues and resulting in discomfort and fatigue,” he explains. “Light field displays don’t have that problem.”

Dawson notes that “companies are facing a need to digitally transform, and holographics is one technology option.” Light field capture opens the door to a new kind of storytelling, adding more options to creative expression.

“It will become an artistic judgment, where the appropriate content migrates to the appropriate display platform,” Ludé says. “We’ll end up with new experiences that we can’t predict now and find out which experiences turn out to be valuable.”