Have you ever watched any of science fiction movies like Star Wars or Avatar and seen those holographic projection phone-calls and thought it is a technology that would only become a norm about 30 years from now? What seemed like fantasy; what was considered to be a mere part of a science fiction movie just a little more than a decade ago is reality today.
Cisco co-developed the technology with a company called Musion in 2006. It was called TelePresence, which required special rooms to be built by Cisco to allow the projection of life-sized holographic projections. The technology, however, did not pick up quickly for obvious reasons- cost vs. benefit. The benefit that one got by spending the money was not significant for justifying the investment.
The first major breakthrough for the technology came in the year 2012, when an Indian politician- Narendra Modi decided to leverage the technology to perform a never-before-used campaign strategy to connect with voters in 53 different locations spaced out in 26 cities in the Indian state of Gujarat at the same time. It set a world record then for the largest simultaneous live holographic telecast.
Narendra Modi then went on to break his own record in the year 2014, during the General Elections to fuel his Prime Ministerial campaign. Using the Musion technology, it enabled him to connect with over 100 million people; and allowed him to give as many as 3,500 to 4,000 events in a space of just 45 days!
Several media houses make use of the technology as well. It has also been used for other smaller scale events such as a concert of Swan Lake in London; a Black Eyed Peas concert during the NRJ awards in France earlier in 2011. All in all, Musion technology- called Eyeliner has never failed to mesmerize any spectators; not just because of its science-fiction like nature, but also because of the immersive visuals that are possible to perform with it. Visuals that have much more impact than those we see on a 2D projected screen.
The technology involves the use of a thin, metalized film that is placed across the front of the stage at an angle of 45 degrees towards the audience. Below the screen is a bright image that is usually supplied by a powerful projector. An audience views the reflected images as if it appeared on stage.
Although the technical argument is that this is strictly not a hologram because it is more of an illusion than anything else, it is widely regarded as holographic technology given how cost effective it is compared to the true holographic counterpart, which still cannot be used for such events in that scale.
There are disadvantages of this compared to the true holographic technology. For example, during outdoor events, the screen may shake due to wind given its lightness. In fact, even a powerful sound system could cause some interference in the image. True holographic technology does not face those limitations, given that it employs lasers to project a true 3D holographic image.
All in all, Musion Eyeliner is a big and cost-effective step towards holographic projections- or optical illusions, to stick to technicality. It gives us the assurance that someday in the future, holographic technology will become a reality; and would be cost effective enough to employ in our day to day lives; much like most technology has so far. After all, few would’ve thought- even in the 1990s, that in just a little more than a decade, we would be able to make cheap phone calls from almost anywhere using a device that can not only make phone calls, but also connect to the Internet at high-speed and search for information; among many other functions.
Srinivasan is a student from UCSI university. He completed his first internship at Datumr.