Don’t get me wrong, I’m enthusiastic about 3D displays being on the move again one decade after the 3DTV hardware hype, which ended in … nothing.

Recently, Sony unveiled a new ‘Spatial Reality Display’. Samsung and Toshiba announced new glass-free 3D products earlier this year. And there are several others on this market, for example Magnetic 3D, Aktina Vision, Looking Glass, Leyard, Kangde Xin, Evistek, Alioscopy. estimated global sales to reach US$ 713.2 million by 2022. I assume the manufacturers have higher numbers in their global forecasts.

Jon Karafin, CEO at Light Field Lab, gives an excellent overview of holograms and other technologies to display 3D, here: Well worth 30 mins of your time.

The development of glass-free 3D displays in many ways goes hand in hand with the development of VR/AR glasses, although they are made for a different type of usage. It is obvious where the hardware trends are going – giving people a tool to watch in 3D.

But where is the 3D content? The question sounds pessimistic and unfair. There are so many exciting games, simulators, etc for VR. And for the 3D displays we have seen so many examples of potential applications ranging from medical, construction to consumer ads in 3D.

These applications are (mostly) animations made by game engines of some sort. But where is the real thing – reality in 3D for your glass-free display? What would trigger the mass market and much larger market forecasts? An important step may be that the new iPhone12 Pro is equipped with LIDAR. We will see a flood of apps creating 3D representation of your boyfriend’s dog barking, as well as TikTok dances in the kitchen. People will love to watch that also on a hologram-like glass-free 3D display – but is that enough of a market drive for the all the new hardware?

Will 3D movies come back? Probably, but will it stop at stereographic viewing as we have seen it in the cinema so far, or will they take it one step further? Watch this Youtube clip (spoiler warning):

When will we get live broadcast of sports in 3D? We have seen fantastic replays of crucial moments in baseball games, by means of rigs with hundreds of HD cameras around the stadium. Amazing quality, but yet expensive and inflexible in most other situations. When will the football broadcasters show true 3D – in the meaning that each viewer can select their own viewing angle and zoom in real-time? And when will we see the same thing in an outdoor and fast-moving sport event like Tour de France? Well, then the glass-free 3D displays will take off! Our vision is Reality Content (preferably in real-time) with viewing controlled interactively by the end-user.

Yes, it is a rather long development journey to get there, but it will come through innovative companies around the globe working together. At I-CONIC Vision we have started to take the first small steps towards software solutions in this direction. Today, our software can create live 3D stereographic viewing on-the-fly from independently flying drones or hand-held mobile phones.  Short example here:

This means agile solutions, both for amateurs and professionals, using any type of normal 2D video cameras. Next step is to create live 3D models from small swarms of drones – let’s call it real-time, real-world 3D.

You can perfectly well explore a 3D model (like the ones in I-CONIC’s product pipeline) using a ‘normal’ screen, and that will be the most common way. However, the 3D displays do need 3D models to make any sense.

Our software will only be only one of the pieces. A full solution needs integrators or partners to provide and operate the drones and the cameras, to handle communication and computers for the processing, as well as to visualise the live 3D world. And of course, the most important part – creators to dream and then bring the content to life.