Are you for real (or are you a hologram)?


Someday, you might be able to sit at a conference table with colleagues and not be able to tell which participants are real and which are perfectly accurate holographic representations of people who aren’t there in the flesh yet nonetheless keep interrupting you. On the plus side, the holographic donuts will contain absolutely zero calories!

That’s where the world of mixed reality inevitably is headed. We may not see this particular scenario for a while, but technology giants and startups are hard at work building mixed (or augmented) reality tools and development platforms that allow users to overlay and manipulate holographic images onto physical environments.

Microsoft offered an enticing glimpse of mixed reality’s potential in the workplace during its recent Microsoft Future Decoded show in London. Check out the video below, particularly starting at the :50-second mark:


Did you see those android-type figures standing around that holographic project on the table? Sure, they don’t look like real people now, but compare the graphics from the earliest football video games to Madden 2018. (Note: We really did think Intellivision football was great. In our defense, we didn’t know any better.) Mixed reality will only get more real.

In fact, that’s already happening. Do you like Frank Zappa? Well, you can catch him on tour starting late in 2018 — even though the musician died in 1993. Hologram company Eyellusion and the Zappa Family Trust are launching “Frank Zappa – Back on the Road” concerts in which the deceased musician’s holographic image will play with living musicians such as Steve Vai and Adrian Belew.

Amazingly, holographic live stage performances from deceased performers began in 2012 with Tupac Shakur at the Coachella music festival. Even then it was impressive, though when you see Snoop Dogg come out and stand next to Tupac, it’s clear which one is real and which is a hologram.

More recently, here’s a French politician appearing in the form of a hologram on stage at a political debate with rival candidates. How long before it’s impossible to tell the real human on stage from the hologram?

Clearly there’s a difference between viewing a hologram on a stage from a distance and sitting at a table next to one. Over time, though, it may be difficult to tell the difference even up close, without resorting to touching the person (or not touching the hologram).

This eventually will require a set of hologram policies — with input from human resources– about when use of an employee’s holographic image is acceptable. Otherwise you’re just going to mess with employees’ heads, and that won’t do much to help productivity.

When do you think holograms will start to look lifelike up close?


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