When That Hologram Message from Star Wars Becomes Reality

When That Hologram Message from Star Wars Becomes Reality

“Help me, Obi-Wan…” Princess Leia pleads in a three-dimensional holographic message delivered by R2-D2 in Episode IV of Star Wars.

[Related: Virtual Reality Technology Is Changing How NFL Teams Practice]

You too may soon send a hologram message of yourself to someone.

Long the stuff of science fiction, Microsoft has created holographic capability with its HoloLens virtual reality technology.

Microsoft Research’s new software, called holoportation, is a 3-D capture technology that allows high-quality 3-D models of people to be reconstructed, compressed, and transmitted anywhere in the world in real time. When combined with mixed reality displays such as the Microsoft HoloLens, this technology allows users to see, hear, and interact with remote participants in 3-D as if they are actually present in the same physical space as you.

The HoloLens, Microsoft’s virtual reality headset, is slated to ship to developers this week.  Microsoft describes it as “the first fully untethered, holographic computer, enabling you to interact with high-definition holograms in your world.”

According to Microsoft, the HoloLens goes beyond other virtual reality headsets that have recently appeared on the market. It offers a “mixed reality” experience–a combination of enhanced virtual reality and augmented reality.

Hologram technology is being increasingly explored as VR headsets and technology continue to mature, and this year is expected to be a watershed for virtual reality headsets in terms of product launches and rollouts. Virtual reality headset shipments are expected to approach 30 million by 2020, driven by video and gaming.

Shahram Izadi, partner research manager, explains, “To make all this happen, we’ve had to create a new type of 3-D capture technology. I’m surrounded by these 3-D cameras that we’ve developed on our team. Each of them is capturing me from a separate viewpoint, and we’re fusing this data together to create a temporally consistent model.”

The camera filming him has a HoloLens tracking model attached, which allows taking these 3-D models and compositing them in real time into the real world.

Another user also wearing a HoloLens can interact with the 3-D image in their space.

“Imagine connecting with family members who are thousands of miles away,” says Izadi in the official video below.  At 2:04 he demonstrates his daughter holoporting. It’s amazing, take a look: