‘Hologram’ lecturers will soon beam to universities for the first time, starting with Imperial College London.
The UK-based business school is working with Toronto-based holographic media company, ARHT, to bring speakers from all over the world directly into their lecture halls using a projected hologram as a form of teleconferencing. ARHT describes it as “holographic telepresence.”
Instead of conferencing with a monitor or a computer screen, a life-size holographic is projected on to a large pan of glass, allowing a subjects entire form to take stage as if they were actually in the room.
To do this, the speaker is recorded from a mobile “capture studio,” which consists of a black backdrop, lighting on both sides to give a three-dimensional appearance, and a live camera.
“The alternative is to use video-conferencing software but we believe these holograms have a much greater sense of presence,” says Dr. David Lefevre, director of Imperial’s Edtech Lab. “The lecturers have a high-definition monitor in front of them which is calibrated so they can point at people and look them in the eye. They can really interact.”
Before bringing the new technology into their classrooms, Imperial College held a trial run this past week at a “Women in Tech” panel, where two of their four panelists were projected as real-time holograms from their respective homes in Los Angeles and New York.
“Introducing hologram technology to the classroom will break down the limitations of traditional teaching by creating an interactive experience that benefits both students and academics,” Lefevre adds.
This advancement in video conferencing could change not only future university events and lectures, but could possibly re-imagine how we gather and communicate in general. ARHT hopes to realize this future by directing its focus on bringing these holographic displays to retail spaces, movies, education, and conventions.
Previously, hologram projections have been used for various musical performances, usually to bring life to fallen artists, such as Prince, Amy Winehouse, and Tupac. ARHT, on the other hand, is focused on using the technology to enhance interaction while allowing speakers to literally be in multiple places at once.
ARHT showcased their holographic telepresence at CinemaCon by beaming in actors to the event. The team believes their holograms could be immensely helpful with connecting actors to worldwide press junkets all at once.
“Movie studios will be able to make their stars available simultaneously across the globe at movie launches via holographic telepresence interviews,” said ARHT CEO Larry O’Reilly, “which has never been possible before.”
The process isn’t cheap — usually costing thousands of dollars for each broadcast — so don’t expect grandma to be “holoporting” to Thanksgiving dinner anytime soon. But the new technology could open up a lot of possibilities for large-scale events, such as conferences, TEDTalks, and summits which include speakers who are unable to travel either due to time, health, or political constraints.