In the future we’ll all be sitting around a box in the middle of the room, rather than a TV in the corner. Canadian startup H+ Technology thinks so, anyway. H+ has created a see-through tabletop box called Holus that presents a tiny three-dimensional digital world you can interact with.
Billed as a “3D holographic experience,” Holus uses an optical illusion called Pepper’s Ghost. It’s an old parlor trick that reflects a hidden object in such a way that it appears to be the room with you. You might have seen the trick used with digital projection at Coachella music festival in 2012 and the Billboard Music Awards in 2014, where it allowed Tupac Shakur and Michael Jackson, respectively, to perform on stage from beyond the grave.
Holus combines this technique with 3D projection. Four images of the same object are projected onto the walls of a plexiglass prism inside the Holus box, and no matter which side you’re on these images appear to form a single 3D object (seen at different angles).
This differs from a similar hologram-like technology we reported on in 2013 that fizzled out after an unsuccessful Kickstarter campaign. Imagination Farm USA’s Holho Pyramid created the illusion of moving 3D images with mirrors perched atop a smartphone, while its Holho Zed instead put a tablet into the top of a perspex stand where an image could be shined down into an angled transparent screen to create a 3D effect.
H+ claims that any digital content can be fed into Holus from a computer, tablet, or smartphone and converted into a 3D hologram-like image. And you can interact with the image via motion tracking or some other kind of external interface – be it a traditional gamepad or a gesture input device such as Microsoft Kinect or Leap Motion, or even Emotiv’s Brain Sensor electroencephalography headset.
The tabletop box is meant to create a “social campfire” experience in the home, with family members clustered around the system looking and interacting with one another as well as the 3D display. It is also expected to benefit business (through “holographic” presentations) and education (through more natural visual interactions with digital content and complex 3D images).
H+ hopes to see a big uptake from developers producing Holus-specific games and software. The company has built support for the two leading game engines, Unity and Unreal, as well as other middleware technologies.
Holus also includes a music visualizer, a Siri-like virtual assistant, a holographic character library app, (either two or four) USB ports for charging smartphones, a tablet dock, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.
A Home Edition clocks in with 230 x 450 x 450 mm (9 in x 17.7 x 17.7 in) dimensions, with a viewable image size of 191.5 x 405 x 405 mm (7.5 x 15.9 x 15.9 in). The beefier Pro Edition is 270 mm (10.6 in) high and 550 mm (21.7 in) long and wide, with a viewable image size of 224.9 x 475.7 x 475.7 mm (8.9 x 18.7 x 18.7 in).
The Pro Edition also includes embedded speakers and an ambient sensor that dims the display automatically.
Holus has already blown past a Kickstarter goal of CAD 50,000 (US$40,805), and all of the early bird pledges have been snapped up. Backers will now need to stump up at least CAD 850 for the Holus Home Edition and CAD 950 for the Pro Edition. If Holus is funded successfully and reaches production, H+ says the devices will begin shipping in April 2016.