September 7, 2023

The New Leia and the Future of 3D

Following Leia’s recent acquisition of Dimenco, David Fattal, CEO of Leia Inc., and Maarten Tobias, Leia’s Chief Commercial Officer (and former CEO of Dimenco), sat down to discuss how far 3D display technology has come in the past year, and what this acquisition means for the future of the industry.

Besides the acquisition, we saw the launch of Dimenco-powered ASUS ProArt StudioBook 16 at CES and Leia's Lume Pad 2 at MWC, both shifted the conversation to be about uses cases and costs. What else has changed in the 3D space over the past year?

Maarten Tobias (MT): To begin with, “3D” isn’t a dirty word in the industry like it was a few years ago. Now, though, the world is ready for it and acting to it.

With Apple Vision Pro – and what Nvidia is doing – 3D is coming back. Our technology at both Leia and Dimenco over the last 12 months has evolved so much that the quality is not a discussion anymore, it however took more than 10 years to get here, confirming that not many companies are able to do this.

David Fattal (DF): It proves that we’ve both been on the right track all along as separate companies. That all starts with showing the difference good, personalized 3D can make for content.

I agree, “3D” isn’t a dirty word anymore! After an initial phase of inflated expectations around 2010-2014, 3D went through a period of disillusionment from which we are still recovering. But both Maarten and I are seeing that we have now embarked in an informed phase of enlightenment, with companies like Acer and ZTE launching products in the market: that are receiving very positive feedback from end consumer and ecosystem partners. 

It’s no coincidence, a lot of investment has gone directly or indirectly into the 3D ecosystem in the last few years, in gaming engines like Unity and Unreal, in compute with ever more powerful GPUs, in cloud and network infrastructure, and in VR/AR related tech. But perhaps two specifics to highlight are 1) the mastery of 3D display tech that can switch seamlessly to 2D, no more suffering image degradation for normal 2D content, and 2) the emergence of generative AI techniques for image processing, allowing magical things like on-device real-time 2D3D content conversions. We can safely say that old technical and content barriers to 3D have been lifted, at least for personal devices which is the focus of the company…


What do you mean by personal devices?

DF: We mean any display meant for personal use, as opposed to shared (multiviewer) use. This includes smartphones, tablets, laptops, monitors, automotive and inflight infotainment…all familiar devices that you are already interacting with intuitively in your daily life. We are staying out of larger screens meant for multi-viewers like TV sets, but we think our market is already very large! 

At the most basic level, it’s about delivering an incredible 3D experience, meant to blow away the person in front of the screen. In our case, a big part of that was incorporating eye-tracking into our devices. In the past, we used a passive screen that worked well-enough. However, dedicating the front-facing cameras to eye-tracking in the Lume Pad 2 opened up incredible clarity and crispness. It made the whole experience much more pleasing to the eye. 

While Leia has already established a robust content ecosystem, everything we have in place extends even further now that we’ve incorporated eye-tracking. This includes 3D movie streaming featuring top-tier Hollywood titles, 3D photo sharing, a generative AI platform, and of course, games with great studios such as Gameloft. Then there’s 3D video calling in partnership with Zoom. Video chat, in particular, is a great use-case for widespread adoption because once you experience the emotion and connection from a 3D video chat, it’s really hard going back to 2D.

MT: Common requests we receive frequently from customers are for 3D chat and 3D video-conferencing. And we’ve also been targeting that...separately prior to this acquisition, but now, together, as  a great unified solution. We’re not there yet, but with the integration of both these companies we’re getting closer.

Did you talk about things like this at events in the past, prior to the recent acquisition?

MT: The 3D display space until now is a small market. It’s always been very friendly. We both have the same drive, passion and at the time we had a different approach, but we respected each other and we knew that we both had a common goal. Even when we were in competition, we knew that we’d have to work together instead of fighting each other. Better to create a bigger pie for both of us than to have two much smaller slices. 

DF: [laughing] For a long time, I’d see our two companies as competing chess masters. Both extremely good at what we do and planning out moves. I always had respect for what Dimenco produced and had such a great time whenever speaking with Maarten.  The more we talked over time, the more we realized what we had in common.

So, David, you had an inkling for a while. Maarten, what happened when the acquisition conversation started? 

MT: When Leia approached us about the acquisition, it was a bit of a shocker – something we had to process – but we quickly realized that it made a lot of sense. A lot of customers we’d been speaking with were considering multiple options. So, when you have two of the market leaders competing for the same business and pushing different technologies, some could choose to wait and see which company will win out. 

DF: These customers were excited by the fact we were joining forces. We’d hear things such as, “Great! Now we don’t have to choose one over the other.” It unlocked conversations about making new products, but more importantly, it also brought us towards creating a standard for 3D in the market as the category leader. 

David, you mentioned that you had so much in common, were you referring to the technologies you employ? The company culture?

DF: Honestly, both. We can talk about the technologies in a moment, but as a company we’ve always referred to ourselves as a family. The Leia family started with employees and we extended that same sentiment to our community as well. 

MT: Dimenco had a similar approach. There’s already a strong connection  – not just between David and myself, but also across the teams, possibly a result of Leia having a company culture that’s radically similar to ours. 

Of course, Leia acquired Dimenco, but most of the people communicate to us that culturally it feels like a merger. That also shows that we are like-minded on the market and how we want to address it.

How do you see the newly formed larger Leia immediately benefitting as you address the market together?

DF: Previously, Leia focused on Android, catering to the mobile and automotive markets. Dimenco, meanwhile, led on Windows-based laptops and monitors for professional use. At every level, we are truly combining our strengths to address a broader market.

For instance, Leia’s software and 3D•AI accomplishes so much when leveraging our panels. We see it all as very complimentary technology that will hugely benefit all hardware for all the platforms we tackle.

MT: In the past, as Dimenco, we’d provide the APIs and rely on strong partners to create apps to leverage our screens. But moving forward we’ll have a team in place, already addressing the software side that will create additional hooks specifically for our technology. It’ll make for a much cleaner experience overall.

One of our objectives is to port Leia’s applications to our platform and vice versa. Both have strengths and LeiaChat is part of that. We’re keen to get LeiaChat quickly to all platforms, including devices already out in the marketplace.

The Leia Appstore is a perfect example of how we’re complimentary. Merging what Leia’s done for Android and Dimenco for Windows into one will go relatively quickly because we have the same basic principles.

What are some of your shared basic principles, from your perspectives?

DF: The way we look at the technology – the image processing – is similar. It’s funny because we are two different companies, but there’s a lot of overlap in how we handle the background tasks to make 3D work in our separate solutions. The way we’ve organized, we separately had some of the same specialties and focus areas.

From the beginning, Leia focused its Lightfield efforts on a backlit display. Dimenco’s display technology itself was always sitting on the top layer and that, combined with the image processing they had done, got Dimenco to where it is ...and there was a lot of overlap.

Leia, going forward, is moving away from the backlighting 3D aspect and pushing that layer towards the front with future iterations. So that helps bring yet another aspect of how we’re working together into alignment.

MT: From my perspective, Leia is a great partner from both the application / software side, but also manufacturing. There’s a big, strong operations team that we simply did not have on our own. 

What will CES 2024 and the rest of next year look like for the new Leia?

MT: We will be much more present and visible in 2024 first, with other OEMs. In the coming three-to-nine months, you’re going to see more vendors offering 3D solutions coming out of our new organization. Either proof-of-concepts or new product announcements, shipping in high-volume in 2024. 

DF: This truly is the beginning of something great and we can’t wait until everyone gets to see what’s coming — 2024 is going to be an exciting one for 3D! I can’t wait to share more soon.