Holographic Projection

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Written by
Tony Molloy

Have we seen the future of meetings and events?

It’s 40 years since Princess Leia was miraculously projected mid-air above R2-D2 pleading for help from Luke Skywalker and the fledgling Rebellion in the original Star Wars movie, and simultaneously sparking a generation’s fascination with holograms. As introductory concepts to future technology go, George Lucas gave us a high bar to vault with his vision of the future.

But the last week has seen a very real, tangible and exciting use for holograms. At a tech event in London, Imperial College Business School used holograms of their guests during a debate, opening up a discussion on how the technology can enable the next generation of meetings, lectures and events where speakers can be part of the experience regardless of where they are in the world.

The audience had the same experience as it otherwise would have had, had the speaker been in front of them.  

The speakers were able to engage with the students in real-time, responding to reactions and answering questions via a camera link as if they were in the same room. The system works by projecting a live image onto a glass screen, an illusion of depth is then created using a backdrop, projector and monitor. It presents a whole new window of opportunities for education and business.

This particular hologram used Panasonic laser projection to create the illusion. To ensure a layer of interaction with the audience, the speakers were provided with a high-definition monitor in a remote studio, which was set up so that they could make eye contact with individuals in the audience.

For events companies it’s a potential way of attracting the best, most appropriate speakers to their events without needing to fly people around the world which, as well as being expensive, impinges on people’s time and is damaging to the environment.

For education, there’s the potential for bringing in guest lecturers and helping to share research among institutions around the world, many of whom have official partnerships with other Universities.

What next?

Holographic presence was one of the technologies identified as an upcoming trend for lectures and meetings in a research project on The future of meeting spaces which we collaborated on. It identified potential future trends in meeting scenarios.

Holographic projection could help provide an interactive environment for conference calls and meetings, allowing global organisations to make cost savings by holding meetings remotely without losing the human quality of having the real thing. Talks, seminars and calls can be attended by more people than would have been possible should the meeting have been held physically and attendees can be more involved and engaged than they would otherwise be via a video link.

The technology also presents a number of opportunities for the education sector. For example, although they don’t plan to roll this out widely, Imperial College has identified opportunities for further education events, including using it to share talks with overseas students. Crucially, this type of technology in comparison to ‘peppers ghost hologram installations’ is low cost and thus affordable for universities and medium-sized organisations.  

Moving forward there could be an opportunity to combine lecture capture and hologram technology, providing almost an exact replica of the service offered to local students to distance-based and international students. Universities are continuously seeking a way to appeal to a wider range of students and draw them away from inexpensive online courses, this could potentially be the answer they are looking for.

The applications for holograms extend beyond education and business into live events. At ISE 2018 Panasonic demonstrated holographic projection to create a show combining dance performers, laser projection technology, 3D mapping and tracking. We joined forces with Novaline, who provided projection screen fabrics, which when combined with laser light from Panasonic’s 3-chip DLP™ laser projectors, created a very bright and realistic looking image. In the past, similar technology was used in the recreation of performances by 2-Pac and Amy Winehouse to bring the much-loved icons back to life in holographic form. Slightly creepy or a brilliant idea?

Although the use of hologram technology is still in its infancy, there is potential for it to become integrated into how businesses communicate, students learn and audiences enjoy live experiences. If this is anything to go by the future looks good for spaceships and lightsabers.

The Panasonic showstopper at ISE 2018 offered an amazing holographic experience

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