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This holographic digital photo frame turns your iPhone 12 snaps into 3D portraits

Looking Glass Portrait
(Image credit: Looking Glass)

The portrait modes of phones like the iPhone 12 use depth mapping to recreate the bokeh of real lenses, and now a sci-fi accessory is using that same info to create holographic digital photo frame.

Okay, the Looking Glass Portrait doesn't create real holograms, but the new Kickstarter project – which has blasted through its target by over 20 times – does create a glasses-free holographic effect using a lenticular lens.

We've seen this kind of tech before, most notably from Looking Glass itself in 2018 when it made the first iteration of its Looking Glass display.

But the difference this time is that's a whole lot more affordable – $199 (roughly £147 / AU$267), if you bag its Super Early Bird discount on Kickstarter – and also neatly taps into that information that's captured by your iPhone's portrait mode (and the same for some Android phones).

The process appears slightly clunky right now, as you need to import the portrait photo into its HoloPlay Studio software (for Mac/PC). That will then convert the depth data into the dozens of perspectives needed to create the holographic effect in the 7.9in display, with the 3D effect stored on the Looking Glass Portrait itself using a Raspberry Pi 4.

The photo frame also includes controllable edge lighting, built-in controls, and both HDMI and USB-C connections for importing your 3D snaps.

Looking Glass Portrait

(Image credit: Looking Glass)

Going in deep

So which phones have the depth information needed to create holographic snaps in the Looking Glass Portrait? You can use iPhones going right back to the iPhone 7 Plus, while "some brand-name Android phones also support depth capture with portrait mode photos". According to the photo frame's maker, "the newer the phone, generally, the better the depth map".

Naturally, the iPhone 12 Pro and Max are the best companions, because they have back-facing LiDAR scanners to create highly accurate depth maps. But the most recent iPhones (X, 11, 12, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max) can also record depth videos with their front-facing TrueDepth cameras.

Using apps like Record3D, this means you can also record holographic videos for playback on the Looking Glass Portrait, once you've run them through its software. From the demos on its Kickstarter page, that definitely ups this frame's sci-fi ante.

You can also record holographic birthday wishes by using a depth recorder like a Microsoft Azure Kinect or Intel RealSense depth camera, but this seems a little too pricey and involved for most people, with the supplied Holographic Capture Bundle costing $999 (about £743 / AU$1343) even with the Early Bird offer.

The more likely punt for most people will be that basic bundle, whose first two shipments should be sent out in March and April 2021. 

via TechCrunch

Mark Wilson

Mark is the Cameras Editor at TechRadar. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won the Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.