Holograms have existed as an idea in the popular consciousness for decades now, mostly thanks to sci-fi books, tv shows and movies. Thanks to advances in modern technology, however, they might be about to break into the real world.
Recently, Microsoft relocated their Mixed Reality Capture Studio to San Fransisco, where it is now kitted out with higher-resolution cameras designed to capture 3D visuals and convert them to holograms.
Similar technology has existed for a while – but in Microsoft’s studio, the holograms are interactive.
“Our children are the first generation to start to expect spatial – or 3D, volumetric – content,” said Jason Waskey, a principal creative director for Microsoft and creative director for the studio.
“When we think about why people would want a hologram, it’s the same reason you want to see your videos in sound and in color. It’s because it reflects the world the way we move in the world. Having someone life-sized in the same room with you, remembering them the way that they were or are – that’s really powerful. As we continue to recreate the world around us with as much fidelity as possible, adding depth is the next stage. Anywhere you expect to see video, you should also expect a truly volumetric experience.”
Here’s a look at what it entails:
The project has been a huge undertaking for Microsoft, especially as it incorporated the efforts and initiatives of several different areas of the company. Just recently, the company also added Azure to the studio’s toolkit.
Steve Sullivan, the general manager of the Mixed Reality Capture Studio, spoke with Microsoft about the continuing project, and explained that Azure would allow the hologram technology to have a “better scale and broader reach.” Not only will it mean that users can rely on the cloud to process more content in a flexible manner, it also means that people who already have their own infrastructure in place can utilise the hologram technology from their own location.
“One of the pieces of tech that really proves to be important is the way we compress and package the results,” he said. “We can crunch it down to about the size of a video stream from Netflix. So basically, anywhere you can stream Netflix, you can stream our holograms. And that puts us onto phones, web, HoloLens and – you name it.”
What to expect from the technology
The potential uses for this sort of technology are plentiful and varied, but Microsoft already has a few ideas in the pipeline for what they’d like to try out first. Sporting events, it seems, are near the top of the list.
Take golf, for example. A hologram projection of a golfer’s motions and movements can allow an audience to get up close to the action – something you definitely can’t do right now.
“It’s as if you were standing right in front of him,” Sullivan said. “You can get up close and see exactly where their hands are placed, exactly where the driver smacks the ball. And that’s not safe to do that with standard, conventional 2D photography.”
And beyond that, Microsoft envisages holograms replacing photographs to some degree. That school photograph on the fridge? Why not replace it with a tiny moving replica. Family holiday snaps on the walls? Think of how much more special they’d be as motion-captured replays of those cherished moments.
“Even in small doses, it really changes your experience and perceptions,” Sullivan said. “Having a hologram of somebody is a more authentic, complete representation of them than photos or videos.”
Of course, the technology is still a way off for that kind of sophistication – but it’s possible, and, with Microsoft, perfectly probable.