Christoph Grainger Herr, Swiss watch boss was unable to fly to a China-related global trade fair due to Covid-19 restrictions. He decided instead to be a Star Trek star.
Chief executive at luxury brand IWC was scheduled to attend the Watches and Wonders exhibition in Shanghai in April.
He decided instead to join the show as an actual 3D hologram. In 4K resolution, his appearance allowed him to speak with, see, and hear those who were actually present at the event.
David Nussbaum is the head of US holograms business Portl.
He did his job, talked to executives and unveiled a brand new watch in real-time. Then we laughed him out!
Due to the global pandemic of coronavirus, which has stopped much travel worldwide since March 2020. It has also sparked interest in using holograms (3D light projections) of people as an alternative to video calls. They are more real-life, more immersive, and offer more sensory experience than traditional video.
Portl in Los Angeles is one the leading technology firms. Nussbaum states that Portl can not make its portals quick enough.
The portals have a height of eight feet (2.25m), and are glass-fronted. A life-sized hologram depicting a human appears inside the booths.
Portals are equipped with speakers that allow the user to hear and understand what is being said by the portal. These portals have microphones and cameras so that users of the hologram can hear and see the faces in front of their projection.
The person must know where he/she is physically located – which can be anywhere on the other side from the portal machine. To do this, they will need a camera and a backdrop.
Portl’s web-controlled software connects to any portal/portals via the internet. You can also connect as many times as you want.
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“There’s almost no latency [delay],” says Mr Nussbaum. “And, were it not the sheet of glass before the hologram, I would have believed the person to be actually.” [standing] there. If there’s no light in the window so you can’t see the reflection, you will think that the person is there.
Portl is designed for business customers and is being used currently by T-Mobile and Netflix.
The portals cost from $60,000 (£45,000) each, so they are certainly expensive, although the company says they can be rented for considerably less.
According to Mr Nussbaum, “In just a few years this will become a common way of communicating between office buildings.”
Microsoft uses hologram technology based on HoloLens 2, a headset. They are significantly cheaper than Portl’s system at $3,500, however, the 3D holograms they produce aren’t as lifelike.
Instead, headset users can call each other and their holograms appear in front of them, as cartoony avatars. They seem to be in one room.
Greg Sullivan from Microsoft’s mixed reality department said, “It would seem that they are in a similar physical space. They could walk around a virtual desk and collaborate on items.”
Thyssenkrupp, a German engineering company is also aiming at businesses customers. It puts the technology into practical use.
It was once one of the largest elevator and lift manufacturer in the world. To make repairs, its technicians had to travel around the globe. Instead of flying around the world to fix any problems, employees now have access to HoloLens 2, a Holographic headset that allows them connect with local technicians in holographic format. This helps guide them through what they need.
Japan Airlines has been using headsets for training engine mechanics as well as crew members.
Ikin, a San Diego-based hologram company that focuses more on the consumer market than other hologram companies. The company will be launching next year a device you can clip to your phone and that projects into the air transparent 3D images of the person with whom you are on video.
Gordon Wetzstein of Stanford University is an associate professor in electrical engineering and computer sciences. He says holograms can be used to communicate more effectively than video conference.
“[With holograms] you can create eye contact. It is possible to read subtle cues, such as which person is looking at who,” he said.
He warns, however that there may be problems in the future if these images are so realistic that it is impossible to distinguish them from an actual human being.
He says, “If digital and synthetic experiences can be created that become closer and closer to your perception of reality, then you are more susceptible to manipulation.”
Portl’s first investor was Tim Draper. He was an early backer for both Skype and Tesla. Portl’s Mr Nussbaum stated that hologram tech will soon replace the standard video screen in video conferencing within “five years”.
It will also replace video information screens, he said. We’ll be replacing every digital kiosk in any mall or lobby in no time. It will revolutionize the way businesses present content live and recorded.
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