It truly is amazing what science and technology can achieve. When the world has become so high-tech that we start to feel as though nothing could surprise and amaze us anymore inevitably someone, in this case, Microsoft, comes along with some research project that can take our breath away.
One such research is that which has been carried out by Microsoft’s development lab, Interactive 3D Technologies. They have been slaving away in a lab developing what is now the world’s first successful ‘holoportation’ device. According to the Microsoft Research website, ‘holoportation is a new type of 3D capture technology that allows high-quality 3D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed and transmitted anywhere in the world in real time’. It can be used in conjunction with a ‘mixed reality display’ like HoloLens to allow us to maintain conversations with others in 3D.
This technology is the successor to 2D video calls that we perhaps did not expect to materialise quite so soon. 2D video calling has had a massive impact on long distance communication for millions of people. It is used widely in business and on a personal level allows those travelling to reconnect with their loved ones in a more meaningful way than is possible by phone. The potential applications for holoportation are equally as vast.
The creator who is heading up the development project is Alex Kipman, the man behind the technology that powers the Kinect. He demonstrated the capabilities of the software in a TED Talk earlier this year in which he spoke passionately about his hopes that technology can be used to bring people closer together. This is a refreshing viewpoint from this arena. Kipman wants to eliminate screens completely, and with the increasing reports of screens negatively impacting on our interpersonal relationships, this is great news. Kipman says in his TED Talk that he believes ‘our children’s children will grow up in a world devoid of 2D technology’. Although it may sound like a long way off, the suggestion that this could be the reality is astonishing. He sees holoportation as a means of ‘freeing ourselves from the 2D confines of traditional computing’, where we actually become cut off from those in our immediate surroundings.
There are some drawbacks to the technology at present, due mainly to it being in its earliest stage of development. For example, the hologram of the person being transmitted to your room will appear in the centre point of your field of vision with the result that it may be rendered in the middle of some furniture, or other obstacles. Another issue that needs to be ironed out is the flickering which appears in the hologram at intervals. Although, these are small issues in the face of such incredible technology.
But don’t get your credit card out just yet, unfortunately, the HoloLens, which is the headset is still in development and has not yet been made available for commercial release. However, a recent development has seen Microsoft collaborating with VNTANA to produce a HOLLAGRAM. The HOLLAGRAM uses the same Microsoft hologram technology to create a holographic experience which renders the digital in the real world. This technology is non-wearable, instead, the user stands in front of the HOLLAGRAM hardware and watch as their hologram appears onscreen. They can then interact with digital images, essentially allowing for holographic selfies to be taken.
This astounding evolution of technology really does leave one open-mouthed at how far our technology has come in such a short space of time. As Alex Kipman put it ‘we’re like cavemen in computer terms’, there is so much more to discover, and it really is an exciting time to be alive.
Watch Alex Kipman’s full TED Talk below.