The 3D display industry does not have many players, but it is becoming better structured, as highlighted in the recently released Yole Développement report “Next Generation 3D Displays”. We are at a time when virtual reality (VR) is well-recognized by the consumer market. Augmented reality (AR) has seen some hiccups and is now mainly targeting industrial markets. Hence, the next hyped display technology, 3D, has arrived with many promises. But the challenge is addressing all physical and psychological cues corresponding to the human vision system and how it sees objects. With the advancements in display, optics and computing performance, there has been much progress on all fronts, enabling better 3D display performance. On top of that, the recent trend of having 3D data at one’s disposal, or almost, thanks to 3D sensing in particular, gives the 3D display industry new ideas.
Pierrick Boulay and Dr. Zine Bouhamri, both Displays Technology & Market Analysts for Yole Développement, had the opportunity to discuss some 3D display market and industry trends with Dr. Javid Khan. Dr. Khan is the founder and director of Holoxica Limited, a high tech company working on holographic 3D visualization including digital holograms and holographic video displays.
Zine Bouhamri (ZB): Could you please introduce Holoxica and its activities?
Dr. Javid Khan (Dr. JK): Our vision is to “Solve 3D”. Holoxica is a tech company specializing in disruptive holographic 3D solutions from motion video displays to static images. Our tech does not need any headgear, because 3D images appear in mid-air, viewable naturally, just like “Star Wars”. We have an experienced team delivering on extreme hardware, software and 3D graphics projects. We offer 3D light-field display solutions with partners, which are capable of showing color motion video, as well as static digital holograms. We can convert any kind of 3D digital data into a hologram. Our technology is positioned beyond current AR/VR and can be a direct replacement for this. The main uses in professional applications are in medical imaging, scientific data visualization, engineering design, architecture and construction.
ZB: 3D displays are a vast domain. Among the three major techniques, multi-view, volumetric, and holographic, which one draws your attention most, and why?
Dr. JK: Actually, it is a combination of all three, a technique known as light-field synthesis. It is an extension of the multi-view technique to extreme multi-view with over 30 views in a viewing cone of over 30 degrees. The technology slices the volume angularly, a bit like a cake, rather than a loaf of bread, which has planar slices, as in more traditional volumetric displays. The technique is not necessarily holographic – it can use refractive or diffractive methods to spread the light.
ZB: What is Holoxica’s positioning in the 3D display market?
Dr. JK: We have good core intellectual property (IP) on segmented, planar heads up display (HUD) style and volumetric display hardware. We also have a lot of IP around graphics and rendering techniques for light field displays, which is based on our digital hologram heritage. This now runs in real-time on our flagship Holoviewer software, developed during the course of our recent EU project.
ZB: What was this EU project about?
Dr. JK: It was about 3D medical visualization. A volumetric display was built with associated visualization software. The project was technically successful but not commercially. It however led to software that could work with almost any kind of 3D image, including MRI and CT scans. Now, as it is extremely adaptable, it can also take any kind of 3D input, radar, sonar, geometry, meshes, you name it. So much so that it only took us a few days to have the software up and running on the newest 32” displays from Looking Glass Factory, for example.
ZB: Do you have partnerships to develop the 3D display business?
Dr. JK: Yes, we have partnerships with companies that produce light field 3D displays based on either projector arrays from Holografika or LCDs from Looking Glass Factory.
ZB: We see mentions of 3D displays coming to the automotive sector, with many investments and joint developments. How do you explain this interest? What would be the real added value?
Dr. JK: That is a strange one that I did not predict. The interest comes from the automotive sector itself as they are always looking for new innovations and ways to present information, not only to the driver but the passenger as well. I am unsure of the real value other than being an eye-catcher. There is some real value for holographic HUDs on wind-shields for obvious safety reasons, but that’s been around for some time.
Pierrick Boulay (PB): There seems to be an uptick regarding 3D displays, with many companies asserting they are getting out of stealth mode. Does it mean that the consumer market is within reach?
Dr. JK: Not necessarily – consumer displays are well developed and people expect a similar level of performance and quality. Look at what happened to Leia and the RED phone. Some companies like FOVI-3D and Avalon Holographics are breaking cover with full-parallax light field displays but these have a whole host of non-trivial technology challenges that need to be addressed. These include fabrication of dense pixel arrays over a large area or tiling smaller micro-displays. There are also issues of computing the rendering process of the light-field data and the bandwidth need to stream the data and distribute it to the array.
Looking Glass just launched a 32-inch light field display with horizontal parallax that is quite spectacular and a game-changer. This is likely to be the benchmark for others to follow.
PB: All these kinds of displays have a tradeoff between cost and performance. Do you think it can reach a point where the price would be acceptable?
Dr. JK: In the short term, it will be enterprise and professional markets. Yes, in the medium term, the price could come down to high-end consumer levels. Production of content for consumers is difficult because we do not have good light field capture technology, which restricts the usability of the displays to synthetic computer-generated content.
Regarding consumers – advertising would probably be the first market. OK, that’s B2B. This would be followed by video games. Film/TV is some way away, and this requires fundamental changes to recording studios and content generation.
PB: Where do you see the greatest room for improvement to increase market adoption?
Dr. JK: I think we need to increase the size of the displays first. Then it is about practical usage, and with that I mean increasing the compatibility with current graphic technologies and the eco-system in general. There are currently no standards for the capture, compression, storage, transmission or processing of light field data which is orders of magnitude above that required by current 2D or stereo 3D, basically twin-2D, methods. To reach these next milestones, I think that funding is going to be of the utmost importance, but as consumer applications are far from reach, except maybe a few exceptions, I guess it is harder to raise significant money to improve upon the current market status.
PB: What are the hurdles that Holoxica is facing and what are you trying to improve upon?
Dr. JK: We would need to improve the performance of our algorithms and software first. Then I think one of the major development paths would be in supporting more professional grade software, to help build out the eco-system. Because I believe that the path is not so much toward the consumer as it is to going towards higher targets, more professional, B2B applications.
PB: Thank you very much. Any chance we could see you and your products at an exhibit somewhere soon?
Dr. JK: Sure! You could maybe see our some of our products running on Looking Glass displays at the CES. Otherwise, we participate in events around Europe – watch out for our events announcements. We tend to go to medical, scientific and engineering events.
Dr. Javid Khan is the Founder of Holoxica Limited. Pioneer in holographic 3D technologies for medical, scientific, industrial and commercial applications, Dr. Khan has over 25 years’ experience in microelectronics, photonics and 3D displays. Entrepreneur, founder and director of Holoxica Ltd, a high tech company working on holographic 3D visualisation including digital holograms and holographic video displays. Javid founded Holoxica in 2008 to commercialise the results of his research in Photonics Engineering on Holographic 3D displays at Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Holoxica’s R&D activities focus on naturally viewable (glassess-free) dynamic 3D displays. Holoxica also offers custom 3D digital hologram design and production services for professionals markets including medical imaging, scientific visualisation and engineering design. Javid has won several national and international awards in business and photonics. Areas of expertise include: embedded systems, IC design, micro/nano systems, displays and photonics. He is an expert assessor for UK government R&D programmes in these fields. He was formerly a Scientific Officer at the European Commission defining research programmes and running international high tech projects with an annual budget of €10 million.
Javid holds a doctorate in Photonics Engineering on Holographic 3D displays, and has MEng and MSc degrees in Microelectronics and Telecoms Engineering; and an MBA in Entrepreneurship.
As a Technology & Market Analyst, Displays, Zine Bouhamri, PhD is a member of the Photonics, Sensing & Display division at Yole Développement (Yole).
Zine manages the day to day production of technology & market reports, as well as custom consulting projects. He is also deeply involved in the business development of the Displays unit activities at Yole.
Previously, Zine was in charge of numerous R&D programs at Aledia. During more than three years, he developed strong technical expertise as well as a detailed understanding of the display industry.
Zine is author and co-author of several papers and patents.
Zine Bouhamri holds an Electronics Engineering Degree from the National Polytechnic Institute of Grenoble (France), one from the Politecnico di Torino (Italy), and a Ph.D. in RF & Optoelectronics from Grenoble University (France).
As part of the Photonics, Sensing & Display division at Yole Développement (Yole), Pierrick Boulay works as Market and Technology Analyst in the fields of LED, OLED and Lighting Systems to carry out technical, economic and marketing analysis. He has experience in both LED lighting (general lighting, automotive lighting…) and OLED lighting. In the past, he has mostly worked in R&D department for LED lighting applications. Pierrick holds a master degree in Electronics (ESEO – France).
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