When fans witnessed the late rapper Tupac Shakur appearing onstage with the still very alive Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre at Coachella back in 2012, there were probably more than a few of them who thought they were having a Woodstock “don’t eat the brown acid” moment. However good or bad the drugs were at the festival, however, they weren’t responsible for seeing a long-dead artist performing on stage. It was a hologram, and it was really cool.
3D holograms have been part of our imagination and sci-fi culture for decades. At this point it’s nothing special to see a movie where the bad guy thinks he’s got the drop on the good guy, only to find out he’s actually shooting at a hologram instead. But that’s the movies. Seeing Tupac rapping more than 15 years after his death is real life — sort of, anyway. And since then there have been other pop culture stunts with holograms as well.
Now a company is bringing the hologram experience to the masses in a very cool way. VNTANA created their technology by hacking a first generation Microsoft Kinect a few years ago. Then they sent a video of what they’d done to the Redmond tech giant and wound up getting some serious backing for their venture. Now they’re the leaders in social augmented reality, a term many may not be familiar with just yet. But they will be soon.
VNTANA has created a really cool product that uses AR holograms to let people virtually interact with celebrities called Hollagrams, receive a recording of the event, and then share it on social channels. To the casual viewer it looks like a video of an actual interaction between their friend and the celebrity. Mercedes used the nifty idea to let fans (virtually) serve a ball on Roger Federer at the 2015 US Open. Three time Grammy winner and Matchbox 20 front man Rob Thomas let fans karaoke with him on his summer tour that wrapped up last September, and played with the idea of having his band mates show up in a hologram on stage to play a few tracks during his solo performance. And things are just getting warmed up.
Right now VNTANA is focusing on the social space, because that’s where critical mass can be achieved quickly and that’s where brands — the primary target clients for VNTANA — are focusing their energy as well. But the possible uses for their technology are virtually — no pun intended — endless. An interactive, holographic instructor is infinitely more interesting than a video call for a classroom or training session, for example. And of course the ability for SpecOps to draw out a sniper’s location using a holographic decoy shouldn’t be downplayed either.
Yet with all of the various possibilities, perhaps the most interesting by far is the possibility of combining an interactive, holographic image with an artificial intelligence. Maybe teachers and instructors could be all but replaced. Our virtual assistants could take on a whole new level. Again, endless possibilities. So if you’re in the VR/AR/AI world and looking for a different way to go, you might look into VNTANA.