As a young Star Wars fan, I dreamed of holographically convening my friends like the Jedi Council. Virtual and augmented reality headsets have already brought this particular nerd fantasy somewhat within reach, but Shawn Frayne, the CEO of the startup Looking Glass Factory, tells Inverse that the solo experience of current VR tech can be a lonely experience. For collaboration and interaction, 3D creators and consumers alike will want use something like the Looking Glass.

Unlike the Oculus Go and HTC Vive headsets, Frayne’s team brings 3D creations to life using a book-sized, glass box he’s dubbed the Looking Glass, which is available for pre-order Tuesday and will begin shipping in September. This clear, crate-like device serves as a lens into a dimension of realistic holograms, without having to slip on a pair of goggles.

the looking glass holograms
A promotional GIF for the Looking Glass wants you to take your idea of VR and smash it bits.

“Headsets are isolating, in a sense that they point to a dystopian future,” Frayne says. “We’re prioritizing the real world and pulling pieces of the real world into a virtual space.”

The Looking Glass fuses light field and volumetric display technologies to produce 3D holograms of animations, designs, and even renders of peoples’ faces, similar to Princess Leia in the original Star Wars movies.

This shouldn’t be mistaken with the Victorian technique known as Pepper’s Ghost, famously used on a grand scale in the Haunted Mansion ride at Disney World, wherein an optical illusion was created by reflecting a high-quality, 2D rendering onto a special type of foil — known as Musion Eyeliner — that makes it appear three-dimensional.

IRL holograms are coming, if Frayne has his way -- no headset required.

Frayne’s creation notably brings actual 3D holograms to life, albeit for now in a smaller confined space.

To use the looking glass, all users need HDMI and USB 3.0 ports; the Looking Glass is compatible with all PCs and MacBook Pros from 2015 onward. Users can additionally purchase a Leap Motion controller to interact directly with the holograms.

Frayne sees a future where designers and animators use the Looking Glass to examine and tweak their work on the fly, and gamers use it as an extension of their consoles or smartphones.

“Anything that can be visualized on a flatscreen or headset can be brought alive here.”

“Architects can use this to demonstrate designs instead of using expensive 3D prints; it can be a playpen for virtual pets like in Pokemon Go, and even as a screen for holographic Skype calls,” he says.

looking glass holograms

The Looking Glass comes in two sizes, 8.9 and 15.6-inches, starting at $600 and $3,000 respectively with 33 percent discounts for pre-orders. Users will have access to a library of free apps curated by Frayne and his colleagues to let the community run wild with their imagination.

Here’s to hopefully being able to virtually slap your friend’s hologram during a Skype call in the near future.

Photos via Looking Glass Factory, The Looking Glass Factory, Star Wars