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SYFY WIRE hologram

Now you can beam a hologram of yourself to someone else, no R2D2 needed

By Elizabeth Rayne
PORTL at SDCC 2019

When the first Star Wars movie came out in 1977, Leia could have never imagined there would eventually be something that was a level up from R2-D2 when it came to sending hologram messages.

Imagine Leia had appeared to Obi-Wan and Luke as if she had stepped through a portal. They would also see her life-size and in full color, not that ghastly shade of blue that made her look like a cosmic ghost. Now PORTL has come up with the first hologram machine ever that can do that. Plug it in and you can tell Obi-Wan he’s your only hope in minutes. It works just as well in daylight as it does in darkness as black as the void of space. It is also completely self-contained and much more user-friendly than R2, who had to endure a few glitches and repairs before he he was beep-booping again.

Here’s another thing the droid couldn’t do: PORTL can beam in both live and pre-recorded holograms in 4K resolution. R2 was just an answering machine.

“PORTL is the most versatile hologram device on the market,” PORTL CEO and inventor David Nussbaum told SYFY WIRE. “PORTL allows for multiple machines to be networked together so an entertainer can beam into 100 cities around the world simultaneously with the ability to hear, see, and interact with their global audiences.”

Beaming a live concert everywhere (think of it as an upgraded version of the technology that brought celebrities who had passed back on stage) is just one the astounding things PORTL is capable of. It can make life-sized people appear to guide you through a museum, give a public speech or even show your company’s newest products right there as if you were actually checking them out in the store and seeing them up close. Imagine the displays that theme parks could put on. This is the brainchild of self-admitted sci-fi geek Nussbaum—yes, he is a Star Wars fan—that will do everything to make it seem as if you are actually in a galaxy far, far away.

“By using our custom screens, we place a 2D image into a 3D space,” he said. “In doing so, the forced perspective causes the viewer to experience parallax between the image and rear of the PORTL which creates the volumetric-like effect.”

There has never been hologram technology like this before. There is a research team working on tangible holograms, which you can actually touch and feel. That technology has a long way to go before it reaches PORTL level. While incorporating touch into such tech could help with the experience of trying products before you buy, and it would be unreal to be able to touch someone close to you who may live far away, just seeing them as if they were actually there is over and above what even many science fiction movies thought could happen. Nussbaum is basically living in his own version of one of those movies.

“Through our content creation methods, we do everything to replicate what the human eye would see,” he said. “This is done through camera placement and perspective, using lighting to tie the subject to the real world and high resolution capture/playback prevents pixelation even up close.”

Right now, one of these machines—which wowed con-goers at San Diego Comic Con in 2019 (above and in the video)—will set you back $60K. PORTL machines are materializing around the world at malls, airports and museums. Nussbaum is looking to miniaturize this technology to eventually make it available to everyone. It will be capable of all the effects that the full-size studio has, from the portal illusion to the eerily lifelike holograms, but accessible from a device closer to the size of a laptop or tablet. Nussbaum is optimistic.

“When we offer it to the consumer market, The Mini PORTL will be hologram Zoom, meets virtual Alexa, mixed with the exclusive content opportunities similar to Peloton or Masterclass,” he said.

So even though this device is the future, what lies ahead for a technology that has already got one up on a fictional droid?

“PORTL’s tech team is developing some hardware, software, and production techniques that make The Jetsons look like a documentary,” said Nussbaum. “Let’s just say that I’m taking some ideas from my favorite films and TV shows and turning them into reality.”

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