Beam me up! Holograms set to revolutionise digital communication.

Beam me up! Holograms set to revolutionise digital communication

The use of holograms is something of science fiction for many. It leads us to conjure up futuristic images from Star Wars, however, the technology is already well developed. And with the advent of 5G estimated to provide 60 to 120 times faster latency in communication, we can expect to see holograms and 4D images deployed much more frequently. Back in September last year, Vodafone used 5G technology to conduct the UK’s first live holographic call. And last November, Imperial College London used holograms for two guest lecturers from the US as it seemed much more ‘real’ than using traditional video conferencing. The technology now allows a much more interactive presence from the hologram who can interact with the audience in a more lifelike fashion. 

Companies are using Volumetric 4D video techniques to capture these realistic lifelike figures. Volumetric 4D is an effective means of capturing the real world content necessary to drive effective VR and AR experiences which is now supplemented by an increased demand for MR (Mixed Reality). And 5G will provide the engine required to deliver that content. A recent CBS report noted that the market for such 4D video is set to grow from $578 million last year to a projected $2.8 billion by 2023. Delivering high quality volumetric 4D is a significant investment. A large number of studio depth cameras are used to make live 3D scans of the presenter, which are then processed and projected back onto a glass screen. As you can imagine, the processing of this amount of data requires significant compression, rendering and encoding which is why 5G plays such a critical role in the ecosystem. No doubt over time, and in line with Moore’s law, the ecosystem infrastructure will become more economic and widely available.

The applications for holograms are not just in education. In Indonesia’s recent election campaign president Joko Wikodo used a hologram to woo voters outside the capital Jakarta to the delight of onlookers. The logistics of campaigning across a country which consists of an archipelago of more than 17,000 islands means that holograms are a practical tool to reach a larger audience. In the US presidential election, Democratic candidate Andrew Yang, has also proposed using the technology to support the logistics of his campaign. The use-cases for volumetric 4D video go much further than this however. In a recent article in AV Magazine, Dimension studio in London noted a demand from clients working in divserse industries such as medical training, retail, data visualisation and fashion. 

Microsoft are targeting mixed reality experiences at corporate clients with the HoloLens 2 wearable device. There may have been some sniggers in the industry after a failed demo at Microsoft Build 2019, however, it is worth watching the original demos to see how far and how transformational this technology has become. Targeting the corporate market would appear to be a pragmatic step for this embrionic technology. After all, the PC was targeted at business before being widely adopted by the public. Recent innovation has made it possible for the user to touch the holograms and have a much more immersive experience. This is currently targeted at supporting front line technical and engineering teams. In a recent interview in the Verge, Alex Kipman noted that the product is ‘still not immersive enough for the consumer off the street to go use it’. However, with the current pace of innovation, one can only assume that this is simply a matter of time.

In terms of Digitalisation, it is clear that in time this technology will open up a much more vivid set of experiences for consumers. One can imagine much richer advisory services which will again reduce the demand for face-to-face advisory in countless industries. Until now holograms have been used to project lifelike images, often of celebrities, for brand endorsement. However, recent advances mean that in the not too distant future, real time volumetric capture might change how we communicate, shop, interact and educate ourselves. This is a digital revolution which will transform how we see the world and how experiences are shared. It’s time that businesses started to look at the strategic impact of 5G and how it will affect their core business. We are looking forward to the journey.

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