Imagine sitting in a meeting and seeing a three-dimensional image of your CEO appear, move around, speak to the group, then vanish. This is an example of holographic telepresence, and it’s on the verge of becoming more common in business.
While most of us could only imagine such technology a generation ago, the ability to transmit holographic images over networks today is getting better all the time. If you’ve ever watched the first “Star Wars” movie, released in 1977 (Episode IV, “A New Hope,” to avid fans), you saw an example of a hologram when R2D2 projected a message from Princess Leia. That grainy image has been superseded by much more realistic representations. But are 3D holograms as good as the real thing? Will they ultimately become a substitute for other forms of communication?
Accenture recently hosted a meeting outside Chicago where its CEO beamed in by hologram from Paris and the firm’s human resources leader appeared by hologram from New York. The use of multiple holographic images of executives, interacting with each other and the audience, was a first for Accenture, but not the first such example of this technology. Cisco pulled off that trick with its CEO and a couple of other executives at a meeting in Bangalore, India, in 2009.
Holograms are certainly interesting visually. Apple and Samsung are filing patents to create holographic displays for mobile devices, which will probably drive consumer demand for this kind of feature. What does a sophisticated hologram look like in action? Check out this nifty video clip about the Musion holographic projection system:
The ability to appear to an audience, even though the presenter or entertainer isn’t actually there, is intriguing. While it looks really cool, it has its limits for engaging an audience. For example, the champion Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton appeared at a live event for Reebook standing next to a hologram of himself. The event was more compelling for the audience because he was there in person, and the holographic introduction underscored the real Lewis Hamilton’s authenticity.
What is truly important amid all this technological innovation is that business communicators need to deliver messages with authority and authenticity, regardless of which medium they may be using. A hologram might look almost indistinguishable from a real person, but it’s the message that matters.
From an audience engagement perspective, high-quality video offers tremendous value, and it’s quicker, easier and far less expensive to produce than holographic images. High-end holograms require a lot of cameras and rendering equipment, which can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even more. Whether your enterprise is using live, in-person events, live and on-demand video, or exploring the world of holographic telepresence, one thing is for sure: your message has to reach and engage your audience. Otherwise, it will ring hollow.
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