No doubt, one of the coolest scenes from the original Star Wars trilogy came when R2-D2 delivered a hologram of Princess Leia talking to Luke. Now, Microsoft has unveiled its own hologram technology that looks like right out of the Star Wars universe. It’s called Holoportation, and it’s about to be on every tech geek’s holiday wishlist.
Microsoft has been experimenting with their HoloLens for a few months and now their I3D research group unveiled a wild advancement that allows for a live hologram of another person to be placed in any room. The system uses a series of 3D video cameras that capture images of a person from all angles and then seamlessly stitches together a 3D model of the person. That 3D model can be compressed and reconstructed to anywhere – instantly. The cameras are able to project the person’s speech and movements in real-time to another room where somebody wearing a HoloLens can interact with the transmitted hologram – no beeping droid required.
As Shahram Izadi (manager at Microsoft Research) demonstrates he’s able to hang out in a room with a hologram of his daughter, while she’s busy playing in another room. “It’s almost like walking into a living memory, that I can see from another perspective,” Izadi says in the video. The recreation isn’t perfect and is actually a little bit eerie with its occasional polygon glitches, but nonetheless, it’s pretty amazing. The major downside is that only those wearing the HoloLens can see the hologram, so family Skype sessions might still be a better bet.
We’ve seen similar hologram technologies in recent years, most notably Tupac’s hologram at Coachella, but where Holoportation stands apart is the ability to act with the hologram. Holoportation does require a lot hardware at the time – and is likely pretty costly – so don’t expect any birthday holograms from your relatives this year. The developer model of HoloLens cost a hefty $3,000 – which Microsoft admits is out of reach for many – and that’s not even taking into account all those cameras required to transmit the hologram.
It will be interesting to see though how far along this technology goes in the next few years, and how it impacts our communication. It’s not difficult to imagine Skype meetings becoming be a thing of the past with holoportation chats taking their place. While at the moment it’s still out of reach for everyday use, talking with a six-inch high hologram version of your grandmother might not be in a galaxy far, far away after all.