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Microsoft ‘holoportation’ lets you share a room with a faraway friend

Whether you need to inform Obi-Wan he’s your only hope, or just want to hang out with loved ones who are far, far away, who hasn’t dreamed of a future involving holograms? Microsoft’s “holoportation” demo shows that it’s possible — if you’ve got a couple of HoloLenses and a couple of rooms surrounded by 3D cameras anyway.

Shahram Izadi, principle research manager at Microsoft Research (Cambridge UK), hangs out with a co-worker in hologram form in a recently released video, and then with his daughter.

It’s not a perfect re-creation: you can tell that you’re looking at a hologram because of occasional glitches and an overall low polygon count. But it’s not hard to imagine this being more intimate than a Skype chat.

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“Imagine being able to teleport to any place, with anyone, at any time,” said Izadi in the video. “That’s what holoportation is all about.”

The setup isn’t simple. A HoloLens is required to see the holograms in realtime, and a room surrounded by 3D cameras is necessary to create them. And however good the technology becomes, there’s one barrier to this feeling deeply immersive: the HoloLens itself.

You can’t see other people using this tech unless you’re wearing a HoloLens, and you can’t make eye contact with people who are wearing the augmented reality device. To see another person’s holographic face, they need to take off their headset — which means they can’t see you.

In the video Izadi Interacts with his daughter Lilly, who is not wearing a HoloLens. His daughter cannot see him, and at one point almost walks straight through him because of this.

So there’s a design problem here that headsets can’t readily solve. But it’s still a remarkable example of what sort of tech we’ll have access to in the future, and it’s particularly cool to see the recorded  conversation played back, and even shrunk.

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“It’s almost like walking into a living memory, that I can see from another perspective,” said Izadi.

We’re excited to see how this all develops, and will do all we can to keep you informed.