Hacking The Lightfield


#1

Hi backers! I’m Evan, an engineer with Looking Glass Factory. Just want to get this out of the way: all of us here in the lab are so humbled and excited to be entering uncharted holographic territory alongside all of you!

If you’ve been following along, you know we’ve posted several updates about the awesome content that 3D artists, animators, and game designers have been pulling into their Looking Glasses. But we’ve also received a lot of questions about whether it is possible to display scenes captured in the real world. It turns out that not only is it possible, it’s easy! Behold, the dawn of lightfield photography displayed in a Looking Glass!

ezgif-2-c136f9025d
This Looking Glass is directly displaying a lightfield capture of a bunch of fruit leftover in the lab.

Recall that the Looking Glass generates a superstereoscopic lightfield made up of 45 distinct views of a 3D scene, with the stereo pair that your eyes receive changing as your head position moves relative to the Looking Glass. Thus far, all Looking Glass apps render a virtual 3D scene from slightly different viewpoints. But, what if instead of rendering 45 views of a virtual scene, we simply pasted one photo of a real object into each of the 45 views?

ezgif-2-c2c33c4b9e

That’s right - the Looking Glass is now the premier viewing device for lightfield photography!

But how do I make my own lightfield photographs? Do I have to set up 45 cameras, all at slightly different positions? You could do that (and we’ll post more about this setup in a followup post), but it can get expensive fast. Instead, you can dip your toes into the world of lightfield capture with a single smartphone camera and a setup costing about $150, with which we made all the wondrous lightfield captures you see here.

Using a stepper motor attached to a linear rail and a hacked-up Bluetooth selfie stick, we built a device that automatically takes 45 photos - one per view displayed in the Looking Glass. We’ve also built software that’ll be made available for free to automate importing lightfield captures into the Looking Glass, as well as panning, cropping, and even refocusing!

Demo video!

By the time you receive your Looking Glass, I’ll have a full Instructable and parts list posted along with Arduino code, so that even if you don’t have electronics experience you can build this rig with off-the-shelf parts and minimal soldering. Feel free to post any questions here or reach out to me directly at evan@lookingglassfactory.com if you’re already itching to assemble your own capture setup!

That’s all for now - drop me a line if you have any bright ideas for stuff I ought to photograph and pull into a Looking Glass; you might see your suggestion posted on social media in the days and weeks to come. And if you’re as excited about this as we are, be sure to share this tweet !

p.s. stay tuned for more updates on capture and display of real-world footage – we have some incredibly exciting new developments coming soon.

To the future!