Missing the phone booth? Here is the holographic booth

Our good old phone booths may have faded from circulation, but its futuristic successor is already on the market.

At a time when the Internet has its eyes riveted on the metaverse and the various questions that revolve around this still nebulous concept, a good number of companies are riding the wave of virtual reality and other similar technologies. This is the case of two American and Canadian start-ups spotted by SciencePost, which offer a new interpretation of this concept.

Here, no need for a virtual reality headset or even augmented reality glasses; PORTL Inc. and ARHT Media have imagined a rather impressive “holoportail”. This phone booth-sized device allows a first individual – the presenter – to appear as a hologram in any other booth on the same network.

According to IEEE Spectrum, which was able to attend a presentation of the machine last month, the results would be quite impressive. The two presenters tasked with showing off the product’s capabilities were apparently “extraordinarily realistic”, and actually seemed to be present in the flesh.

A new kind of holographic portal

To broadcast this virtual double, larger than life, the machine is based on a complete kit. This consists of a booth, LED lighting, return monitor, 4K camera and microphone. Two cameras mounted at the top of the booth capture the information necessary to reconstruct the presenter in 3D.

On the other hand, the company jealously keeps its secrets vis-à-vis the display technology that allows the “hologram” to be reconstructed. We simply know that it is based on the positioning of the screen and a convoluted system of reflections. The management of lighting and shadows also play a decisive role in restoring the impression of depth.

In the end, the result is less convincing than a “real hologram” since this image remains locked in its enclave. But it is also a much cheaper and complicated solution to set up, while retaining part of the 3D aspect. The set is not given; with an entry price of over 50,000 euros, this technology is aimed more at institutions than at individuals. It could still appeal to institutions such as museums. Or, more likely, the entertainment, events and advertising industries. For example, we could imagine reviving personalities like Tupac, already resuscitated in the form of a hologram for the 2012 edition of the Coachella festival. It remains to be seen the concept could appeal to Jean-Luc Mélenchon, whose holographic meeting made a strong impression in 2017.

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