We all remember that incredible night at Coachella 2012, when a holographic version of the late Tupac Shakur came on stage with Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg like Princess Leia out of R2-D2. This technology is a staple in science fiction and future technological projections. However, we’re closer than we might think to holographic technology. Though this seems novel from the perspective of a movie buff, the technology could change the way we interact and communicate forever.
What is it?
Most of us know the mechanics of hologram technology from the movies and TV shows we see. The purpose of this technology is to 3D-project the figure of a person with accurate shape, size, and form in real-time. Think of R2-D2’s message from Leia in A New Hope. A transmission is sent from one location to another containing a message, or in some cases, broadcast in real time. Though this sounds like a load of science fiction, researchers are coming close to making this a reality.
What does it do?
The name of the game when it comes to hologram technology is “tele-immersion.” To put it simply, tele-immersion is a combination of the use of video and telephonic technology to create a full, real-time 3D transmission of a person’s figure and speech.
If you’ve ever used a service like Skype or FaceTime to communicate via video, you already know that there are delay issues, glitch outs, and restricted visibility overall. The goal of tele-immersion is to combine that technology with the real time factor of a telephone, along with real-time motion sensing, so that someone on a video call is never out of view, and the angle you stand at effects what you see on the other side.
As opposed to having a confined view from one angle dependent on the web-cam position, video calling would be more like looking through a physical window. When you look at someone through a window, as you move left and right and change your angle of perspective, you’re able to see other things in the room more clearly that would be out of sight if you were standing directly in front of it.
What could it do?
The biggest focus when it comes to holographic technology is it’s potential in video conferencing and video based communication. However, this isn’t just in the corporate world.
Here’s an example: let’s say you have a family member who lives far away or out of state, and though they want to come home for Thanksgiving to see their family, work restrictions around that date make it impossible for them to fly home. Instead of giving them a FaceTime call or phone call to greet them for the holiday, holographic technology would allow that family member (or, a 3D real-time representation of that family member) to sit at the table with you, communicate in real time, and interact with everyone with full immersion.
In the corporate world, this would excuse travelling expenses for employees. Once holographic technology is in the hands of the average consumer, an employee here in Rochester Hills, Michigan could interact with employees of that same corporation in a completely different continent. This could absolutely change the way we handle international business.
Where is it at in development?
As of now, there is a group of researchers known as the National Tele-Immersion Initiative, which works to bring this technology to its full potential. However, universities such as the University of Pennsylvania and the University of North Carolina are actively finding results in the world of tele-immersion. Though not enough progress has been made to make this a consumer-based product, research is being done on the topic of tele-immersion every day, so we might see our own holodecks sooner than we think.
Here’s one example of interactive hologram technology, courtesy of LM3Labs’ “AirStrike”.