Holograms and the next stage of communication
Over the years, we’ve seen the communication landscape and meeting space evolve drastically. We’ve moved from phone to video, from email to instant messaging, and from conference rooms to huddle rooms. Throughout 2020, the acceleration of digital technology is moving faster than ever, driven largely by the rapidly increasing demand for remote work.
All the while, disruptive technologies are working in the background to influence the way that we connect. We’ve got AI and machine learning for amazing insights, IoT, to connect humans and machines, and even AR for mixed reality.
Now, there’s a new solution emerging in the virtual reality landscape, and it may be the most science fiction inspired product that we’ve seen so far: holograms.
Tools like AR make it easier for us to connect with colleagues and loved ones from a distance. These solutions take video conferencing to the next level and place a digital avatar of you in another room. Now, business leaders are beginning to expand on that concept with things like holopresence and holoportation. These concepts use the technology of holograms to design engaging versions of people in another space.
Although holograms might seem like something we’re years away from building, many companies are already experimenting with this tech. We’ve already seen some of the most famous people in the world appearing in festivals and shows thanks to holographic technology.
In the past, this technology was understandably expensive and difficult to access, but that might not be the case soon. Innovators like David Nussbaum, the CEO of PORTL, are creating phone both sized holographic devices, available for anyone and everyone. The PORTL technology is just one example of how holopresence and holoportation is evolving.
These fully-contained machines can project images anywhere. Solutions like this are sure to be particularly popular in an age when live events and in-person interactions simply aren’t possible. While video conferencing calls are amazing, there is something missing when it comes to replicating face-to-face interactions. People aren’t always making eye contact in videos, and we’re often very aware that we’re all sitting in different rooms.
Holopresence and holoportation changes the conversation by placing the people you care about directly in front of you.
It’s not just pioneering startups like PORTL experimenting with holopresence and holoportation either. Leading tech brand, Microsoft is constantly pitching the benefits of mixed reality technology for the workplace. In one demonstration from July 2019, Microsoft demonstrated HoloBeam holographic telepresence from Valorem.
Since then, Microsoft is continuing to release regular updates. The company published a blog post and video about the recent research it has been doing into 3D capture, and making holoportation mobile. Microsoft believes that this new kind of 3D capture technology can bring people together like never before. Elsewhere, companies like OPTIP are moving in the same direction, promising holopresence opportunities for the medical and academic landscape.
This technology allows us to imagine a world where nurses and doctors can interact with patients and get a better look at the situation before offering treatment, even when patients are miles away. In the educational environment, holopresence and holoportation could open the door to an environment where teachers can connect more completely with their students.
Even in the standard office space, holopresence and holoportation could usher us into the next generation of collaboration. The conversations that we have with colleagues can be so much more immersive when we can essentially stand in front of each other, offering extra value in the form of eye contact and body language.
Holopresence and holoportation promises incredible opportunities in transforming the learning, work, and health environments. Right now, we’re only just scratching the surface of what’s possible. PORTL, for instance, has recently formed a partnership with Storyfile, providing access to AI technology.
Storyfile takes real people and creates AI insights on those people using a series of questions. This ensures that even when a person isn’t available, someone could request to speak to the virtual avatar of that person and get useful insights about their experiences. Education facilities could even create avatars of specialists in specific fields, asking them questions about what they do, so that students can “interview” them at a later date.
The biggest issue with making holopresence and holoportation more accessible at the moment is the cost. Although innovators are working on making machines smaller and more accessible, they still demand a lot of incredible, high-quality equipment. In the past, accessing something capable of holopresence would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The good news is that the price is getting lower, with innovators like PORTL bringing fees down to around $2.5k for one of their mini systems. However, there will be some work to do before many smaller businesses can afford the initial outlay and maintenance costs for this technology.
Companies in the holographic landscape will need to figure out a way of reducing the size and costs of the technology, without limiting or compromising on quality. If market leaders can accomplish this, then we could be looking at a future where holograms are a real and consistent part of our daily lives – just like intelligent assistants are now.
Beyond the possibilities of AR and VR, holopresence and holoportation delivers a new imitation of face-to-face interactions unlike anything we’ve ever experienced before. As COVID-19 and the lockdowns of 2020 have accelerated the demand for digital ways to maintain human connections, technology like this has never been more valuable.
There’s no doubt that this year’s panic has pushed more innovative companies to explore what’s truly possible with mixed reality and similar tools. The speed with which the communication landscape is moving now could be the catalyst for endless opportunities in the future.
We’re looking forward to the possibilities of a world where holographic interactions aren’t just possible – they’re easy.