Ricoh’s Warpe Concept “Spins” 3D Holograms into Business Machines

Ricoh’s Warpe Concept “Spins” 3D Holograms into Business Machines
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Ricoh (yes, that Japanese company that sells cameras) unveils its newest Warpe 3D display concept. An adaptation of the more commonly used spinning 3D hologram displays, it is built to provide more focus on corporate and business applications.

Japan’s Mixed Reality Craze

Limitations on outdoor activities, social distancing, and curfews have led to significantly increased online activity at homes. With nothing much to do, or with most jobs suddenly relying heavily on the internet, people have been more or less glued to their computer screens for the better part of 2020 and early 2021.

The same was the universal trend for Japan. However, in light of former public events and conventions being mostly prohibited, there have been numerous projects and proposals to use mixed reality technologies. First, to temporarily supplant the means of human interaction in these mass gatherings. And second, to replicate the “crowd experience” one typically gets by attending these events.

Some of the proposed and conducted mixed reality events in Japan within the last few months are:

  • Ikebukuro Mirror World – is scheduled this coming March 27, 2021. As the name suggests, it will feature a virtual version of Ikebukuro with the cooperation of at least ten (10) designated shops that actually exist in the real version.
  • Music Vket 2 – a virtual event held last March 6 to 10, 2021. Provided visitors with a way to enjoy checking out music shops the traditional way in VR. As for the guest artists, also provided a way to perform live even without a physical stage.
  • Online Sapporo Snow Festival 2021 – a virtual version of the famous annual festival in Japan. While it mainly used 360-degree cameras for the event, a limited number of archives featuring older exhibits from last year were also made accessible.

Continuing this trend, the demand for “3D digital contents” was looked into next. Specifically for Ricoh, this theme was incorporated into the topic of last year’s TRIBUS 2020, namely “to look for the next ‘normal’ thing.” This is where Ricoh’s adapted concept finally took shape at the hands of the internal research team that built and conceptualized Warpe.

(Yet Another) Naked Eye 3D Display Concept?

WARPE 000 - 試作機

For example, for the first image, the head projection was shown into a 200x250 mm image using 370 million voxels. The internal research team explains that up until recently, the perfect 3D representation is only viewable through VR/AR headsets. Now it became possible to using the naked human eye.

…or so it seems.

If you have seen any 3D projectors using spinning LED arrays, then the Warpe prototype device’s basic workings should already be quite familiar.

The revolutionary point in its design is not because it shows “true” holograms on thin air. But because the light source is in a completely different direction, which is below the projection chamber.

Also, if our observations of the teaser video are correct, the “spinning” part is actually an entire 3D structure (listen to the faint hum in the video), with thickness and length, supported by the cylindrical base at the center.

For comparison, most 3D hologram devices have their light placed directly on the spinning blades. This immediately puts a limit on the viewing angles of the device. You have to be directly looking at them at the front in order for the 3D illusion to work. Higher RPM (rotations per minute) is also required, as well as using more blades so that the “refresh rate” of the spinning LEDs doesn’t get mixed up with most image recording devices.

The Warpe prototype device seems to not only retain its image at multiple angles, but the image also persists regardless of how the imaging device is used. As simple as its modifications may be, it is enough to put a significant spin (pun intended) on what is supposed to be an already older technological concept.

Spinning the 3D Hologram Tech

So what is the actual intended use of the Warpe 3D imaging prototype? You might have also noticed that the device is significantly small. Not as small as other gimmicky 3D projection devices, but it certainly cannot be scaled up or down directly.

But before any of that comes to fruition, the company first has to complete the product’s trial runs. For this year, in particular, the internal research team will be conducting proof-of-concept tests, both by experimentation and actually limited deployment to designated businesses. By 2022, more practical applications will be added to its tests. At this time, it would also perceivably begin its mass implementation towards the use cases that it had been originally designed for.

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