Could holograms be the video calling of the future?

Could holograms be the video calling of the future?

Around-the-clock Zoom calls have been a hallmark of the pandemic. Many of us are feeling jaded by screen time and some of the clunkier aspects of video calling – poor connections, talking over each other, and the lack of body language. These are important social queues and often, are make or break for professional relationships.

However, it seems like remote working is here to stay. Even after returning to the office, many companies have discovered the benefits of some type of remote work, whether it be to save money or access previously out-of-reach talent across. Therefore, HR managers from every sector are thinking about how technology could enhance working relationships across locations and time zones.

Now, one particular space-age solution has come to the fore. Remember the scene in Star Wars where R2D2 beams a holographic Princess Leia? Yes, companies are looking at hologram video calling – and this reality may be closer than we think.

From seamless video calling to bringing back the dead

Los Angeles-based startup PROTO has developed a booth, approximately the size of a phonebox, as a solution to some of the more impersonal aspects of work-from-home life. This tool is designed to facilitate real-time holographic video conferencing, with life-size representations of the participants. The booth uses a stretched transparent LCD 4K screen embedded into a lightbox to help create the impression of 3D depth inside the space. The person whose likeness is projected records their footage in front of the screen via a webcam.

“Holoportation” was developed by the firm’s founder, David Nussbaum, who previously created a hologram of rapper Tupac Shakur for a major concert. The firm has said the technology could facilitate “free-flowing conversations” between people thousands of miles apart. However, this comes at a price; the booths start at about £45,000 for the machines. This rises to £64,000 for an AI-programmed add-on called StoryFile, which archives hologram recordings so users can interact with late relatives or even historical figures.

Heather Smith, who leads the StoryFile project, said: “It allows you to look at an individual, feel as if they’re there, feel their presence, see their body language, see all the non-verbal cues and feel as if you’ve actually talked to that individual.”

How soon will this technology be widely available?

Right now, the £45,000 price tag is far out of reach for the average business or private individual. Many will also question the necessity of a life size figure; surely the booths would take up far too much space to become a commonplace feature in any workplace. However, in response, PROTO is planning a smaller desktop version of the device, which could resemble a high-res version of the Princess Leia hologram we referenced earlier.

So will holograms replace Zoom calls in the coming years? Unless the price and practicality of this technology fall dramatically, it’s unlikely. But that said, these sorts of advances are just over the horizon and we may very well be surprised at how quickly they arrive.



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