Tired of Zoom calls? A Los Angeles company is ready to take conference calls to the next level. PORTL Inc. has created a new way to communicate. The company is introducing a machine the size of a phone booth that can beam a live hologram into any room. Star Trek’s fictional Holodeck beamed holograms onboard the spaceship. Now, similar––but real—technology is available for private homes.
A hologram is a true, three-dimensional image. The image is a photographic recording of a light field. It’s made by bouncing a laser light off an object. The light wave takes on the shape of the object that it hits. The shape is projected onto a piece of film.
Holographic film grabs the image with incredible detail. Compared to photographic film, this type of film captures an image’s minute details––thousands of times smaller than those in a photograph. Two-dimensional photographs show height and width. But holograms show height, width, and depth. They’re not the only type of three-dimensional picture, but they’re definitely the best so far.
The device made by PORTL Inc. lets users talk in real time with a life-sized hologram of another person. The machine makes it possible for people to interact with the recorded holograms too.
The device uses artificial intelligence to produce hologram recordings that can be saved. The Los Angeles company StoryFile equips the machines with this feature. Heather Smith is the Chief Executive of StoryFile. She explains what it is like to have a conversation with a recorded hologram. “(You) feel their [sic] presence, see their body language, see all their non-verbal cues. You feel like you’ve actually talked to that individual even though they were not there.”
“We say if you can’t be there, you can beam there,” says PORTL Inc.’s Chief Executive David Nussbaum. “We are able to connect military families that haven’t seen each other in months, people from opposite coasts, or anyone who is social distancing to fight the coronavirus.”
The holograph machine is seven feet tall, five feet wide, and two feet deep. It plugs into a standard electrical outlet. That sounds manageable, but it comes with a hefty price tag. Costs start at $60,000 for the machine. Too pricey, or too big for your living room? The company plans to release a smaller, more affordable tabletop device early next year.