The Hackening @ Times Square - Microsoft


Looking Glass x Playcrafting | Times Square - Microsoft | 12.6.17



On December 6, 2017, we took to Microsoft Times Square for a single purpose: teach how the Unity developers of New York City could apply their skills to creating their very own interactive, floating 3D light display. We called it “Hack the Hologram with Unity”. This class featured falloff from 68 individual RSVPs and a first-of-its-kind collaboration between Playcrafting NYC and ourselves. The class was against insurmountable odds on a attendee and technical morale: though all involved had a blast, succeeded, and overcame the odds. As the lecturer for the event and the creator of the ‘Hack the Hologram Kit’ (among several other things at Looking Glass), I am happy with the manner in which everything came together and from the response we have gotten.





What students created with the Hack the Hologram kit, the supplied Unity project folder, showed a strong understanding of lightfield principles as they relate to floating light and not necessarily the 2D display. Which is the essential goal: transfer what one thinks they know of virtual space and apply it to an unknown and exciting space. As of now, you can try this yourself! An entire, downloadable Unity project folder that coincides with the HoloPlayer One to showcase 10 hackable ‘scenes’ as a start-up for floating light projects. This is, of course, best if you have a system.


A main component of the lecture was how to rationalize showing how the HoloPlayer’s interactivity worked while hooking up output to the projector’s HDMI. One thing our fine attendees found out about working in Unity was that there was an extended display at work (as opposed to ‘duplicated’ display where the same image is on both screen). Display one is Unity where you see your main workplace and display two (extended) is the visualization on the other screen. To consolidate, the HDMI output from the mother PC was moved from the HoloPlayer to the Microsoft projector. This way, work in Unity is shown while interactivity from the RealSense is maintained. As with all HP1 based development in Unity.



Getting 12 HoloPlayers ready (10 active, 2 backup) with 10 mother PCs was quite a feat. It required organization of acute value [re: thank yous below]. I found myself in near perpetual conversation with Quincy; our lab and equipment manager. I dedicated an entire work day just to simply chip away at storing what we needed. That was the extended process, but doable with organization.


The condensed process was coming into the class, full team in tow, and organizing the space and all equipment in a 1.5 hour timespan. How does one set-up 10 HoloPlayer stations for a 68 RSVP class? How does one organize the tables and desks that are in the room built for a 50 member class? It was a rush, but we made it possible. Everyone settled from the debris with 5 minutes to spare before a 6:30 start.




Lecture was fun. I used to be a full-time and part-time Assistant Professor of Computer Graphics and Animation (3D) at the New York Institute of Technology between Beijing and Manhattan. Thus, I found myself in familiar form here with the subject matter I’ve come to know in my time with Looking Glass. After a 30 minute theoretical tune-up, full of HoloLens jokes and a showcase from all instructors, everyone jumped into it. Almost too quickly. I suppose the allure of the HoloPlayer is a lot to resist.


It was rewarding to see the ‘Kit’ used for its distinct purpose: serve as a project folder that can be manipulated to jump start HoloPlayer One projects. Or even, projects that can have applications in the 2D realm as well at a fundamental level. I would like to think interactive design and computation does not have boundaries. The components of them apply to many different facets.

Several projects came to fruition during the class and the 2-2.5 hour available time. All instructors and staff involved barely had a chance to catch their breath with the amount of conversations, instruction, and occasional technical readjustment that would come-

*Soccer application by using the Rigidbody physics of a ball to the RealSense Cursor touch. Rocket League!


*A “Meme Destroyer” that was more allegorical in design. Upon touching “the meme” you would destroy “the meme”. Beyond being a fundamental exercise in using the RealSense touch, I think there are some commentaries about the ephemerality of fashion at stake here.



*Some fun dudes in the corner were actually manipulating the rotation value of objects inside of the HoloPlayer scene to the rotation of their mobile phone! Now that’s thinking outside the virtual box.


*Some thought it was that time of year and rendered a ‘snowy tree’ scene where simple particles would rain down in floating 3D from a coroutine script.


*One gentleman went above and beyond to ‘stress test’ the HoloPlayer with an excessive particle effect of green cubes. It was a work less about the FPS but just how cool it looked. Or perhaps an homage to holographic technology that came out decades ago where the FPS was single digits.


*Several people were enthralled enough by the HoloPlayer and kit that they just interacted with that and took a lot of photos.


*And many other projects-

What students probably may not know about the 3 hour class is that it took a lot of effort to compile from everyone over the period of the preceding month. Looking Glass’s Kris and Nikki helped liaison with the folks at Playcrafting to make sure everything logistical was on track. Quincy at the lab was the main man in terms of providing all of the equipment in proper order and well on time. Kyle, Alex Duncan, and Evan lent their valuable time to participate in the evening and give what was surely great helpful info. Josh even helped out by filming while I was sprinting around the class area. Thanks to everyone involved and thanks to the students and attendees how got a chance to see what the future could hold. Thanks to Looking Glass, of course, for supporting the event. Thanks to Playcrafting and Microsoft Times Square for lending us a stage. And thank you, the reader.




As well! The full tutorial intro video and explanatory hub.