As seen in Star Trek, teleportation breaks down people and objects into a stream of atoms, transports them through space, and rebuilds them on the other end–a process that has all sorts of sticky philosophical issues attached to it, even if you could figure out the physics. Holoportation is a simpler alternative, courtesy of Microsoft Research, which uses 3-D capture technology to beam 360-degree holograms of other people or objects in real time to any space. All without disintegrating anyone!
Created by Microsoft Research’s Interactive 3D Technologies team, Holoportation is part augmented reality, part hologram, and part Skype. It works by extrapolating a detailed 3-D model of anything standing within the field of view of eight depth-detecting 3-D cameras, then compressing it and beaming it in real time to another location, similarly outfitted with 3-D cameras. By wearing a pair of Microsoft’s Hololens glasses–which, in keeping with the whole Star Trek analogy, really do sort of look like Geordi LaForge’s visor–you can interact with a realistic 3-D hologram of another person, without ever stepping into the same room with them.
As demonstrated in a video by Interactive 3D Technologies’ Parter Research Manager, Shahram Izadi, Holoportation has loads of interesting use scenarios. Workaholic Dads can use it to play with their kids while on a business trip, while remote workers could use it to make presentations at business meetings from across the country. Musicians could use it to stage virtual concerts, while actors could transport themselves into plays, even if they were in a different country. And because Holoportation records everything that happens as a moving 3-D digital model, you can even treat them like “living memories,” shrinking them down so they replay in the palm of your hand.
It’s a pretty compelling, if slightly disorienting, look at the power of augmented reality technology to erase borders and physical boundaries in the family, the workplace, the studio, and even–if we get imaginative– the bedroom. Today, we might all be mocking this photo of Mark Zuckerberg walking past an auditorium of people using VR headsets, but who knows? Next year, he might not need to physically walk down that hallway at all. He’ll just Holoport.