28 November 2022
Are holograms a viable solution for the future of hybrid Events?
Back in 2018 I remember working on a show at the Olympia Exhibition Centre. I was project managing a team of technicians supporting the build of a special show floor stage. The stage was utilising hologram technology. The idea was to beam celebrities from a remote location onto stage. In what I can only describe as one of the most impressive and realistic hologram I have ever seen. So, I got to thinking: is Hologram technology a viable solution for events today or in the future? My first impression, it’s possible! The technology is very much here. Beaming the visuals of a three dimensional person from location A to a stage at location B is impressive enough to merit it’s use.
So are holograms real and how do they work?
A mixture of 3D video cameras, projection, mirrors and angled translucent screens. That bring a previously science fiction only concept to life.
With Musicians like TuPac, Michael Jackson and ABBA, two of which died long before their performances. The music industry is leading the way with the use of the technology. However, the music industry has the benefit or working with large stages and even larger budgets!
Queue my concerns with holograms in corporate events.
When I worked on the hologram stage in 2018. The size of the space needed to bring the hologram to life was huge! Approximately the same size as the 200 person seated audience. Large projectors, custom screens and techniques made the project extremely expensive. That’s not even mentioning the specific expertise of the technicians operating.
The company responsible for the 2018 project I worked on, Musion , definitely see a future in holographic technology. But seem to be tailoring their product for experiential and theatrical use cases, rather than corporate.
Their approach isn’t the only solution won the market though. With smaller solutions like tech company www.Protohologram.com who have a reasonably simple and effective solution in a box. It’s incredibly compact and realistic. So an exhibition stand or small conference room would suit this small hologram in a box perfectly!
Will it work for corporate events?
I think the jury is still out on production level hologram technology, especially in the corporate events landscape. Firstly you have to ask the question why would an event want to use a hologram? Aside from having an unlimited budget. The answer is often “it’s more environmentally friendly for certain presenters not to travel”. Especially if that presenter is high profile and costly, so one solution would be to beam them in remotely.
However, beaming in remotely, at present, is being done successfully with TV screens and projection. So for holograms to be something worth using. It will only be if an event wants to do something a little bit different .
So are we going to see it in the corporate events world soon? Well the comparative price of a plane ticket or projection/TV screen to the smoke and mirrors hologram approach alongside the necessary resources and space restrict it from being a viable option for now.
However, there is definitely a place of holograms in experiential events, marketing & PR launches, activations, immersive brand experiences, exhibition stands and video production. When it comes to these more creatively leaning approaches it’s all about the wow factor! So, we can most certainly see holograms being popular with these clients and can’t wait to experiment further with the technology.
The alternative to large scale hologram solutions is augmented reality (AR). Not too dissimilar to VR which I mentioned in my previous blog (found here). Like VR, AR is technology that beams virtual projections onto a headset screen. It’s different from VR because it overlays that content onto real world visuals in front of you. Think Google Maps with the arrows on the road instead of on a digital screen.
You still have the drawback of having to wear a headset, but with AR the technology is taking a slightly different approach. Many working prototypes are using reading glasses style concepts as opposed to large intrusive headsets.
Microsoft and Google have both released products that have had varying levels of success with AR. Both continue to develop technology that aims to be more accessible and more affordable in the future.
Ok, so they may be a little science fiction looking, however if anyone is familiar with the popular game “Pokémon Go ”. A game that allows users to catch their childhood favourite Pikachu’s and Bulbasaur’s wherever they go and then seamlessly see those Pokémon through their phones as if they were their in real life.
Tracking back to events, it’s not out of the realm of possibility to beam your presenter and their presentation into your living room. Or imagine your conference stage, a celebrity instead of a Pokemon, just using eye glasses.
In June 2022 it was estimated there were 1.1 billion mobile AR user devices worldwide. It isn’t clear if those figures include phones that can use augmented reality, but it’s a good indication that AR as a hologram technique is one of the most popular approaches. As well as potentially one of the most plausible solutions we will see in the future of our events.
Finally I wanted to show you an example of a forced perspective hologram. Like traditional holograms, you can see with the naked eye, without the need for a mobile phone or intrusive headset.
It’s debatable that this approach is even a hologram. It tricks the human eye into thinking that the content is a 3D image. Using traditional screens and clever video editing it only appears to be 3D, but is not.
The approach may be the most likely to hit the stages/ screens of your 2023 events. With it being the most achievable without expensive hardware.
So are holograms a viable option for the future of events?
Like many of my deep dive blogs into technology, the technology needs to become less intrusive. It also needs to become more affordable.
However, the technology is here already and an exciting way to differentiate your event in a busy marketplace. So I can confidently say when an organiser asks the question: what can we do that’s different? I think we will see more and more event suppliers recommending holograms, AR or forced perspective as options. Especially for experiential events, marketing and creative projects.
So you can look forward to a few examples of Captain Kirk, influencers of the moment or A List celebs beaming into your events in the future.
“Beam me up Scotty”
This Blog is part of the “Future Technology in Events” blog series where we explore the latest innovations in the events space. If you enjoyed this blog please check out the rest of the series!