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David Fattal, Co-Founder & Chief Technical Officer at Leia – Interview Series

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David Fattal is the CEO and founder at Leia, the leading provider of glasses-free 3D display hardware and software solutions. He previously spent nine years at HP Labs working on various aspects of quantum computing and photonics, and specializing in the manipulation of light at the nanoscale. He holds a PhD in Physics from Stanford University and a BS in theoretical physics from Ecole Polytechnique, France.

Fattal holds over 100 granted patents and was featured on the 2013 list of 35 Innovator under 35 by the MIT technology Review. He co-authored the text-book “Single Photon Devices and Applications” and was awarded the French National Order of Merit in 2014 for developing the “Diffractive Lightfield Backlighting” concept.

As a former research scientist at HP Labs in the Quantum Science Research Team and a specialist in Nano-Photonics, can you share some key highlights from your experience?

During my time at HP Labs, I focused on the intersection of quantum computing and nano-photonics, exploring how light manipulation at the nanoscale could revolutionize communication technologies. A key highlight was Project Leia, where we developed diffractive light field backlighting technology and advanced the field of 3D displays beyond traditional methods. This work laid the foundation for the innovative display technologies we now use at Leia Inc.

What inspired the inception of Project Leia, and how did a chance observation during a fire drill at HP Labs lead to the discovery of using nano-structures for creating holographic images?

Project Leia drew inspiration from technologies used in the field of optical interconnects, which deals with replacing electrical signals with light signals inside computer chips. During a fire drill at HP Labs, I noticed the intricate patterns formed by light passing through one of our “light on a chip” prototypes. This observation led to using nano-structures to intentionally bend light similarly, ultimately enabling the creation of holographic images. This serendipitous moment sparked the development of the diffractive light-field backlighting technology central to Leia Inc.

How does Leia Inc.'s technology convert 2D experiences into immersive 3D experiences on any device?

Leia Inc.'s technology leverages advanced optics and AI to transform 2D experiences into 3D. 

  • Our LeiaSR optical technology can upgrade any personal device screen and give it the ability to send different images to the viewer’s left and right eyes, thereby creating a high-quality 3D effect. The 3D optics can be switched off on demand, allowing standard 2D content to display at full resolution. 
  • Our Neural Depth Technology, powering the Immersity AI platform, can convert any 2D picture or video into 3D. Users don’t need to have a 3D display to see the effects of the conversion.
  • The combination of screen conversion and content conversion gives us this unique ability to create immersive 3D experiences today on any familiar device, from cell phones to computer monitors.

How does the Neural Depth Engine in the Immersity AI platform contribute to generating precise depth maps for 3D content?

The Neural Depth Engine is a state-of-the-art neural network fine-tuned on millions of 3D images collected by Leia-equipped devices in the field. Thanks to this proprietary training dataset, it can create very precise depth maps from 2D images.  

The better your depth maps are, the better results you get in applications like smartphone photo enhancements and 3D imaging. If you're familiar with the background blur (bokeh) portrait mode, then you might have an unknown appreciation for depth maps.

Depth maps are also used for things like photogrammetry, creating 3D models of real-world objects from multiple photographs, and can also be used in medical imaging.

What industries could benefit the most from Leia Inc.’s 2D-to-3D conversion technology, and how?

Several industries can benefit significantly from our 2D-to-3D conversion technology. Social media creators and influencers can enhance their content by offering more engaging experiences that connect them with their community. The media and advertising industry can create more captivating advertisements that stand out from their competition. Filmmakers and game developers can provide audiences with a richer and more immersive visual experience. Additionally, the design industry, including image and video editing professionals, can use our technology to add depth and dimension to their projects, resulting in more compelling and dynamic visuals.

How does the 3D overlay technology used by Leia Inc. ensure that 2D image quality is not compromised when the 3D mode is inactive?

We designed our 3D overlay technology to be non-intrusive. When the 3D mode is inactive, the nanostructures used for 3D rendering become virtually invisible, maintaining the original 2D image quality without any degradation.

Can you describe a real-world application or project where Leia Inc.’s 3D technology has been successfully implemented?

We are powering ZTE's first mobile 3D tablet, the Nubia Pad, released in 2023, and Acer's first professional creator 3D laptop, released the same year.

How does Leia Inc. collaborate with companies like ACER and ZTE to integrate their 3D display technology into consumer devices?

We closely collaborate with companies like ACER and ZTE by providing our 3D hardware and software solutions, technical support, and integration services. This partnership ensures that our 3D technology is seamlessly embedded into their devices, offering consumers a unique and enhanced user experience.

How does Leia Inc. ensure user-friendly interfaces and seamless integration of their 3D technology for everyday consumers and professionals alike?

We prioritize intuitive design and user experience in our technology development. Our SDKs and software tools are easy to integrate, with extensive documentation and support for developers. Our interfaces are straightforward for consumers, ensuring seamless and user-friendly switching between 2D and 3D modes.

What future developments can we expect from Leia Inc. in the field of 3D display technology and immersive AI experiences?

Leia Inc. is continuously innovating. Future developments will focus on enhancing our AI algorithms for even more realistic 3D conversions, expanding our device compatibility, and exploring new applications in the mobile and extended reality (XR) space. We aim to make immersive 3D experiences more accessible and impactful across various industries.

Thank you for the great interview, readers who wish to learn more should visit Leia.

A founding partner of unite.AI & a member of the Forbes Technology Council, Antoine is a futurist who is passionate about the future of AI & robotics.

He is also the Founder of Securities.io, a website that focuses on investing in disruptive technology.