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Mixed feelings on holograms

By Staff | Jan 10, 2014

Being a “Star Trek” fan, when I first heard news that huge leaps were coming forth with hologram technology, I was impressed. Recently a bit of optical technology called Musion Eyeliner has been raising the dead, so to speak, bringing light projections of Tupac Shakur, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra. It has also been used with people who are still alive, like will.i.am and Prince Charles, and to recreate Swedish disco group ABBA as they looked in the ’70s.

Uwe Maass, the inventor of Musion, based his bit of technology on a Victorian era projection method known as “Pepper’s Ghost”. He uses a nearly invisible reflective foil, which is set at 45 degree angle to the stage on which a hologram will be projected, and light is bounced off it. When the lights go down, the result is a two-dimensional image with almost lifelike details.

Holograms themselves are nothing new. In 1971 a Hungarian-British physicist by the name of Dennis Gabor was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for work in holography. He discovered holograms unexpectedly while researching in improving electron microscopes at the British Thomson-Houston company in Rugby, England in the ’40s. Optical holography took leaps forward in the ’60s, when the laser was developed. They were then used to record objects, even though they were very crude. Today there are holographic cards, holographic gun sights–the technology is making leaps and bounds. It’s not anywhere close to “Star Trek” in terms of a holographic virtual reality, but one day it may be a possibility. (Now, if they could just invent teleportation devices that probably won’t kill you, and the ability to travel faster than the speed of light, we’d be all set.)

Being a “metalhead” I would want to see a Pantera reunion performance with “Dimebag” Darrell Abbott on the guitar. Or even a Slayer concert with Jeff Hanneman. But I know that if a hologram were to be used, (Dimebag was killed in 2004, and Hanneman died last year.) it wouldn’t be like the real thing. That same feeling also applies if one were to see Jimi Hendrix, Elvis, 2Pac, or Sinatra.

Let me explain. You can recreate images of Hendrix and Elvis down to even the hairs in their noses. You can get someone to recreate their voices and mannerisms to make it seem more interactive. You can have someone learn their songs word-for-word and note-for-note. What you would have before you still wouldn’t be Hendrix or Elvis. The emotion and near-tangibility wouldn’t be there. (Admit it, who doesn’t want to reach out and touch entertainers? High fives and the like aren’t possible with holograms.) The holograms are subject to a defined area, so that means no running about the stage or into the crowd, which means the audience has limited interaction with them. Even the conversation seems canned.

While the technology may have a long way to go, it will no doubt look cool, but it won’t be comparable to reality.

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