Teleportation, as depicted in Star Trek, may be many moons away. However, holographic technology is getting to the point where it will be common practice to visit somewhere else at least on this same planet near-instantaneously.
Maintenance and More
To be clear, machines that enable holoportation, a term coined by Microsoft, do currently exist. However, they’re far from widely accessible and the technology, which is defined as powering the compression and transmission of reconstructed 3D models in real time, is by and large still in development. Current applications are similar to what you would expect from advanced telepresence devices.
For example, the subject came up at a webinar entitled “Deep Dive into Machine Type Communications Towards 6G” hosted by research-group 6G Flagship. Frank Burkhardt, Group Manager of Industrial Communications at research firm Fraunhofer IIS, spoke of projected Industry 5.0 use cases and mentioned an idea of “teleporting” for the sake of conducting maintenance, by a telecommunications company representative for example.
“You don’t have to go there anymore. You don’t have to fly. You don’t have to drive by car for hours, but you can really just be there and do the maintenance in the best possible way,” he said.
Burkhardt brought it up in the context of one of several potential applications arriving on the horizon with the help of 6G. In the here and now, “holoportation” applications range from museum exhibits of historical figures to educational settings in which professors can appear in multiple classes at once.
The First Single-Passenger Holoportation Machine
In each case, the subject in question could interact with their respective audiences, according to David Nussbaum, Founder and CEO of PORTL Hologram Company. PORTL manufactures HOLOPORTL, which the company tags as “The world’s first single passenger holoportation machine.”
At its core, HOLOPORTL is a 4K-resolution projection window, which currently sells for $60,000, although the price is projected to come down in coming years. The system boasts an audience-facing camera in order for the “portaled” individual to see the person/ people to whom they’re talking. Speaking to 6GWorld™, Nussbaum spoke of another potential use case in the near future: live concerts.
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting a lead singer and a drummer on the same stage right now the way it is, because [there’s] the slightest bit of delay, which could cause an issue,” he said. “But, if you and I are talking, if I beam into a conference […] I could have a real-time conversation without there being any delay.
“It’s not like satellite, like a quarter of a second or anything. It’s almost no delay right now, but we’d like zero delay. So we’ve hired some of the world’s best software engineers and coders and programmers and they are building a video-compression system that will get us to close to zero latency as possible.”
While Nussbaum sees the likes of Zoom and Skype as competitors, the “hologram” or “hologram-like” industry isn’t as clear-cut as that. In effect, the communication aspect is just one of many that characterise HOLOPORTL. He said the company is almost on an island all by itself.
“Technically, we’re not a hologram. We’re a hologram-like effect,” he said. “We are in the hologram/ hologram-like machine industry. I’d say we are also in the communications industry. We are in the entertainment industry. We’re in the projector industry. So, I’d say that we cross over quite a bit. We’re also in the content-management software industry.”
A Hologram Portal in Every Home
Nussbaum is about a year and half into the development of HOLOPORTL, having worked in the hologram industry prior to that. Hundreds of HOLOPORTL units have been sold, but improvements and additions, like an AI component in the future (similar to an in-home virtual assistant as he describes it), are constantly being made. It’s the scalability that drives the company and the technology in his view.
“We’re looking at putting a [HOLOPORTL] in every home. So we’re developing a mini, table-top unit,” he said, with the current unit able to house full-sized projections of people. Furthermore, even though the ability to connect with people in real time is a major selling point, especially under current circumstances, with COVID-19 lockdowns in effect, there’s also a key non-live element to the solution.
“[People] can create content using PORTL technology, upload it to the PORTL cloud and then share it with anybody who will have a PORTL in the future. So it’s a new form of communication, but it’s also a new form of content creation and a way to express yourself. There was the radio and then there was the television and then there was a movie screen,” he said. “This is a blank canvas.”
Rahim Tafazolli, Director of the 6G Innovation Centre (6GIC) at the University of Surrey, believes that holoportation will eventually provide “multi-party physical and virtual interactions.” Speaking at the recent What Next for Wireless Infrastructure Summit hosted by the University of Surrey and TelecomTV, Tafazolli said it’s simply part of a logical progression of the technology with the eventual advent of 6G.
“We started with 2G and text and ringtones all the way to 5G which provides 3D video, virtual reality, and augmented reality. 5G enables physical and virtual worlds. Either you are in a physical world or you are in a virtual world,” he said.
Tafazolli projected 6G as enabling a fourth-dimensional fusion between the virtual and physical worlds. Resulting interactions would enable communication with one another, but also provide ambient information regarding the environment.
According to Tafazolli, the ambient information in question would pertain to human senses. At that point, the lines between holoportation and teleportation would blur. As he put it, transmitting human senses as part of the holoportation process will effectively lead to “a kind of teleportation,” enabling that “fusion between the virtual and physical world in an interactive manner.”
Feature image courtesy of Sergey Nivens (via Shutterstock).