Glasses-Free 3D Display Maker Magnetic 3D Gets Seed Funding And Marketing Boost From High-Profile Tech Investor Draper
November 30, 2023 by Dave Haynes
The emergence of 3D visual illusions for big, public-facing LED displays has created a lot of excitement in the Digital OOH community, both because of the eye-grabbing novelty and the ability to “amplify” the reach of the ads when videos of the displays and creative are shared on social media channels. But these 3D projects have also caused some marketplace confusion, with Chinese LED manufacturers of all sizes pushing out marketing that suggests the visual trickery requires specific kinds of “naked-eye” 3D displays.
A bit lost in all of this is technology that’s been around for years and really does involve hardware that results in glasses-free 3D viewing.
The most enduring company, perhaps, in autostereoscopic 3D displays is NYC-based Magnetic 3D, which has been at this for many, many years. The company has announced seed funding from high-profile Silicon Valley tech investor Tim Draper and his venture capital firm Draper Associates. Magnetic 3D pitched its tech on a web-reality series called Meet the Draper’s, which appears to be like the Shark Tank and Dragon’s Den TV shows seen in many countries (with perhaps fewer pregnant pauses, sideways glances and torqued-up drama).
Magnetic 3D’s evergreen marketing argument is that 3D glasses and VR headsets will always be a barrier to wide adoption, and the best solution is to have the display “wear the 3D glasses” instead of the viewer. Magnetic’s product is, in simplistic terms, a lenticular lens that is optically bonded to an LCD display, which creates the illusion of visuals coming off the screen surface.
“Having Magnetic 3D on Meet the Drapers was a lot of fun – the 3D content is amazing and it really pops off the display and floats in midair! I am excited to be a part of their journey, and love the elegant spin of the device wearing the glasses instead of the viewer – makes perfect sense,” says Draper. “Magnetic 3D’s Glasses-Free 3D platform has the potential to transform various industries – from retail, to advertising and marketing, to healthcare and education. Once it’s out there at scale everyone is going to have to have it to keep up. The team’s commitment to push the boundaries of immersive tech for enterprise applications while charting a path directly to consumers with art and entertainment is a novel approach that should be a powerful combo.”
This is the show …
“We are honored to have Tim Draper join us on our mission to make 3D, XR, and the Metaverse more accessible without having to wear 3D glasses or VR headsets,” says Magnetic 3D’s Founder & CEO Tom Zerega. “Tim has always been ahead of the curve by betting on the future and we take his support as a great indicator that we are on the verge of something monumental. His extensive experience and vision will be invaluable as we continue to develop and deploy our immersive solutions.”
Magnetic 3D says it has its tech operating in a wide variety of environments, including major theme parks, hospitality, and cruise ship operators, defense contractors, aerospace, and medical customers and produced countless experiential activations from CES to Super Bowl.
I’ve seen this tech around for maybe 15 years, and even had a company coming to my house years ago with a demo unit, because I didn’t have time to go see them on the other side of Toronto (would take hours in a car). It’s interesting and the visual effects are real, but this is very much a specialized display product that is probably bought and deployed in ones and twos, not in 100s or 1,000s. It must be a bit of a slog and a hat tip to Zerega, who’s stuck with it for many years.
Like any display, 3D displays are all about the creative. Tech that’s marketed mainly on Wow Factor has to have creative and a content model that make viewers keep looking, because Wow Factor alone tends to have a very short shelf life. A can of soda slowly spinning, seemingly in front of a display, is interesting for about five seconds … and the creative needs to do more than that to have a real impact, whether that’s sales or experience.