Holograms on the horizon? Local company Ikin seeks to mainstream futuristic technology

Remember R2-D2 sending a hologram of Princess Leia begging Obi-Wan Kenobi for help in the first “Star Wars” movie in 1977?

Today, a local company aims to bring similar holograms to life on desktops and portable devices.

Ikin, founded four years ago by Taylor Scott Griffith and Joe Ward and based in an office next to the Hyatt Regency La Jolla at the Aventine Hotel, works on volumetric hardware, ‘adaptive neural’ artificial intelligence algorithms and other software for delivering holograms to small devices – including an accessory that attaches to smartphones.

Ikin products are not yet ready for prime time. They remain in beta testing or special order. When they launch commercially, they will face stiff competition from more established technologies, such as augmented reality smart glasses and virtual reality headsets.

“When I look at holography, I don’t know if there is a huge market today or in the next couple of years,” said Eric Abbruzzese, research director at ABI Research, which tracks the industry. “But I am delighted to see the miniaturization of the technology. I think we see the first of this with an Ikin.

If Ikin is successful in delivering easy-to-use holograms without a headgear, he could find an audience in a wide range of industries, including video conferencing – with realistic Zoom calls and more engaging online education – e-commerce, healthcare. health, real estate, architecture, repair and remote field play.

Ikin’s desktop device displays a volumetric eyeball.

(Courtesy of Ikin)

Griffith, chief technology officer of Ikin, argues that holograms provide a more intense emotional experience. He said he saw this with his own eyes while working on holographic shows in Las Vegas. Holograms of deceased artists such as Tupac Shakur, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson are used in some theatrical productions.

“You would have people crying, especially when it comes to holographic resurrections,” Griffith said. “It really is something incredibly powerful.

“I was working on creating this optical system,” he continued. “It’s easy to build systems on a large scale, but incredibly difficult to build a functional system on a small scale when it comes to holograms. I finally came across a solution.

The young company’s technology appeared on the radar of a US military contractor, who included it as part of a 5G logistics demonstration at a military warehouse in Georgia.

It’s also being explored by an undisclosed cosmetics company looking to use it to test products remotely.

Ikin has two main projects under development.

ARC is a 32-inch desktop display that projects holograms in ambient light and is aimed at businesses. At the company’s headquarters, ARC produced a hologram of a rotating eyeball so that it could be viewed from different angles.

“It’s really cool to be able to scan a turbine engine and see it in a hologram for cracks and flaws over time,” said Ward, general manager of Ikin. “The goal is to continue to explore business-to-business opportunities while producing a consumer product. “

Ikin’s other project is an accessory display that attaches to smartphones to enable holographic images on handsets.

Estimated at less than $ 500, the RYZ Screen is expected to launch next year. It includes a software kit that can be downloaded from the Unity 3D development platform.

Unity is a popular game engine used by software developers on desktop, mobile, console, and virtual reality platforms.

Ikin's hologram technology displays a wasp.

Ikin’s hologram technology displays a wasp.

(Courtesy of Ikin)

The RYZ Kit allows developers to reuse existing content and applications to activate holograms, as well as create new holographic content. “Literally right now every application that exists on a phone is ready to translate into a holographic environment,” Griffith said.

Ikin, which has around 20 employees, has raised around $ 15 million in seed capital since its inception. It is now seeking to raise an additional $ 20.9 million, according to documents filed with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission.

Abbruzzese said Ikin’s challenge will be to engage content creators and make its technology easy to use. It is still “the early days,” he said.

“I hesitate to make the comparison to 3D TVs, but I think it’s appropriate,” said Abbruzzese. “Even if the content is there, the interest may not be. There have been attempts at 3D without glasses – holography being sort of the next step in 3D – and it never really caught on. ”

– La Jolla Light staff contributed to this report. ??

Margie D. Carlisle