Next Big Thing: 3D photographs for magic-less muggles

And not a single pesky pair of 3D glasses in sight

Harry Potter snaps are here at last? About time us muggles caught up.

Not quite, but you’re not that far off. These 3D prints don’t quite move around with their own intelligence and sentient will - but they do give off the strong impression of real 3D objects crammed into flat two dimensional pieces of paper, which is, you know, a solid start and a sort of magic in itself.

It all works thanks to some clever folks from MIT, who have developed a realistic glasses-free 3D experience using something called light field technology, which they’re calling Lumii.

What did the cheese say to it’s reflection? Hey Lumii!

Very good. It’s going to take us a while to recover from that. Thanks. Back to these magical 3D photographs - the way they work is rather clever. Subjects are photographed/scanned and a 3D model is then created.

Lumii’s special Light Field Engine is able to accept and process these 3D models, before an algorithm calculates and churns out a set of very unique patterns. These patterns are then printed on separate layers of material using a regular printer.

Once sandwiched together, the patterns overlap and affect the passage of light depending on the viewing angle. Your eyes merge both angles together and - boom - you’ve got a Hogwart’s-worthy Polaroid in your hands.

Neat. But why?

But why? Imagine if Krunk had said that to Gorg when he first brought back a flaming stick to their cave. We’d still be eating berries and living in furs and there’d be no such thing as Pokémon.

Pushing the boundaries and asking questions is the reason you’ve got a computer in your pocket many more times powerful than the one that took man to the moon. But enough preaching - these 3D prints are easier to make and have a larger depth of field than existing holograms and have potential uses in lots of places - advertising, novelty cards or even just something to decorate your house with.

It’ll be a while before they hit mainstream production, though, so you’ve got plenty of time to commission your futuristic portrait.

For more information on Lumii, click here.