Popular Mechanicsrecently picked apart the "futuristic" society depicted in Pulitzer-winner Adam Johnson's his new sci-fi short story, "Nirvana." Most of Johnson's supposedly sci-fi predictions—driverless cars, spy drones—are already more science than fiction. Except for one, it claimed: "The only piece of tech that actually seems beyond our capabilities is a life-size, interactive talking hologram."
Not so fast. The life-size talking hologram promised in the fantasy films of yore is, too, creeping toward reality. The holographic technology startup Provision 3D Media has successfully produced 3-D floating virtual images up to 52 inches large, and now it's setting out to develop a working life-sized hologram.
The startup is trying to raise $950,000 on Kickstarter to develop and test the prototype. "From the moment Princess Leia materialized in 1977, Holograms would forever be tied to the vision of our future," the Kickstarter page says. "Science Fiction has shown us what’s next. Now it’s time to make it happen."
The technology to make it happen already exists. Provision has been making 3-D holographic displays for over 10 years, mostly for retail use. They've also patented a proprietary light source that has more power than a laser technology, which allows them to beam a six-foot-tall image several feet in front of the screen.
Virtual reality and real life have been blending for a while, but the hologram dream only hit the mainstream in the last year or two. You probably remember the hologram-like images of Beyonce at the Super Bowl, Tupac at Coachella, Wolf Blitzer on Election Night. These, however, were part illusion, rather than actual hologram technology—i.e., 3-D, projected, free-floating virtual images you can see with the naked eye.
Forget Skype: Imagine if you could chat with your friend's digital Doppelganger standing in your home. Or talk to hologram sales clerks about a product. Or play a video game where life-size characters fill the living room, not just the screen.