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8 Incredible Holograms You Will Never Forget

by Jana Louise Smit
fact checked by Jamie Frater

As humanity merges with technology, holograms are starting to phase into everyday life in remarkable ways. These sophisticated projections are making teleportation a reality, allow ghost ships to haunt riverways and produce the most spectacular sports events of all time. But holograms are not just about heart-stopping visuals. They are also solving the circus crisis, allow Martian geologists to work in the field and the younger generations to talk to Holocaust survivors.

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8 A Life-Size Ghost Ship

Waterfront Arts Debut Installation

In 2019, Halloween season came with a special treat. For weeks, people flocked to the Benjamin Franklin Bridge to see a ghoulish apparition. Docked at the Race Street Pier, was a ghost ship. It was regrettably not a real spooky vessel, but the sight was convincing enough to come close.

The size alone was striking. Measuring over 27.5 meters (90 feet) long, the 18th-century ship glowed in the night. Additionally, the hologram was projected in such a way that it seemed to be float on the Delaware River. Biangle Studio, the company behind the haunting sight, also adjusted the hologram to change its appearance. This lured people to make multiple visits over the course of the month that the ship ghosted around the pier.

The ship was displayed as an art exhibition, somewhat obviously titled “The Ghost Ship installation”. There was no charge to view the otherworldly vessel and a pop-up beer garden soothed any frightened souls. Those interested in the history of the Delaware River could also listen to the recordings of artists and historians sharing their wisdom.[1]

7 An Authentic Mars Walk

Mixed-Reality Tech Brings Mars to Earth

Thanks to NASA and Microsoft, civilians can now walk around on Mars. As a bonus, they do not have to fly there in a shuttle nor experience the restrictions of a spacesuit. Fans of the Red Planet can stroll as normally as they would on Earth. To be fair, they are still on Earth but the Martian landscape is the real deal.

The holographic exhibit, called Destination: Mars, opened in 2016 at the Kennedy Space Centre Visitor Complex in Florida. Presented as a “mixed reality” experience, the creators merged virtual reality with the real world. This combination gave visitors a convincing account of being on Mars. But it was not another well-designed, fake environment. Thanks to imagery lifted from the Curiosity rover, a unit that landed on Mars in 2012, people walked along plains and ridges that really exists. As a bonus, a holographic Buzz Aldrin acts as a tour guide.

The exhibit is a great way to share the Martian terrain with the public. However, it also serves another purpose. Scientists use the technology to help them intuitively study the geology of the Red Planet. In a sense, exo-geologists can now safely work in the field.[2]

6 Hawking Appeared Live On Another Continent

In 2015, the renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking made history (again). He appeared on stage at the Sydney Opera House as a hologram. This was not a recording. Physically, Hawking was still at Cambridge University, in the United Kingdom. But while he lectured, his double hovered in the air and delivered the speech in real-time in Australia.

The audience at the Sydney Opera House enjoyed the unusual face-to-face meeting with their idol. They listened to Hawking discuss his life, how his illness almost defeated him but then gave him the courage and freedom to pursue his dreams. The physicist also explained how technology unified humanity and he even fielded questions about why Zayn left the band One Direction. He reassured any heartbroken fans that there was surely a dimension somewhere, with One Direction intact, or where Zayn was happily married to a hopeful follower.

The evening was a success, thanks to the unified effort of several institutions and companies. Working alongside the Sydney Opera House, experts from the University of New South Wales, Cisco and DVEtelepresence Holographic Live Stage beamed Hawking to Australia. His appearance on stage was a first for both the physicist, who had never teleported before in this manner. The event was also the first time the Sydney Opera House welcomed a live holographic guest.

The three-dimensional Hawking was joined on stage in the Concert Hall by his daughter, Lucy, who was there in the flesh, and physicist Paul Davies. Hawking ended the evening with his trademark humor. Quoting Spock and Star Trek, he told the audience to “live long and prosper,” and vanished after saying, “Now beam me up.”[3]

5 Cancel Culture Circus Animals

Optoma impresses audiences with a holographic circus experience

Once upon a time, the best entertainment for families was the circus. Then serious competition arrived in the shape of computer games, movies and other brands of entertainment. Perhaps the modern fear of clowns contributed too, we will never know. But caught off guard and now somewhat outdated, the business faltered badly when the final blow came – the animal activists.

Animal “rights” extremist organizations like PETA doggedly pushed for the closure of all circuses. For years, they have leveled accusations of cruelty towards the owners of performing animals and zoos. The persistent vocal attacks led to animal acts being banned in over a hundred cities, counties and states. In a desperate move to survive, some companies phased out the acts but failed to recover. Even famous names like Ringling Bros shut down completely.

In 2018, Circus Roncalli in Germany came up with a brilliant solution. They used all the animals they wanted and nobody complained. In fact, people were completely mesmerized. Thanks to eleven projectors, Roncalli’s menagerie was exclusively holographic. Life-size elephants performed feats before disappearing, ghostly horses galloped in a circle around the ring, and there was even a giant goldfish swimming through the air. The latter showed that holograms were a step up for circus animal acts; because anything was now possible. The stunning animals came with 360-degree visibility and zero abuse. Thanks to the creative use of technology, the traditional circus has a chance to survive.[4]

20 Amazing Optical Illusions

4 Controversial Tours Featuring Dead Stars

2PAC HOLOGRAM | LIVE Coachella Recording | High Quality

Prince hated the idea. So much, in fact, that he swore friends to prevent anyone from making a holographic version of him after his death. To Prince, these mirror images were “demonic.” He got his wish. But that did not stop holographic companies from resurrecting Amy Winehouse and Witney Houston.

While their tours never came to pass, due to a slew of resistance from loved ones, other deceased stars returned to the stage. Shot and killed in 1996, the rapper Tupac performed at the 2012 Coachella festival in California. Death did not stop Michael Jackson from moonwalking in 2014 at the Billboard Music Awards. Roy Orbison and Buddy Holly even toured together in 2019.

The concerts were a lively mix of pre-recorded artist voices and live back singers and dancers. The perks included stars entertaining multiple venues at the same time, they never get tired or ask for payment. For organizers, this is profit paradise. However, some people resist what could become a mainstay in the music industry’s future. They feel that the whole thing is morbid and disrespectful. Sure, for a hologram company to go ahead with a tour, they need the permission of the artist’s estate. However, the critics argue that the actual person never gave consent to become an avatar.[5]

3 Physical Holograms

Fairy Lights in Femtoseconds: Tangible Holographic Plasma (SIGGRAPH)

Holograms are known for their ethereal quality – emphasis on ethereal. They almost fake their presence, like ghosts. There, but untouchable. That changed in 2015 when Japanese scientists created holograms capable of producing a sensation when coming into contact with human skin. In other words, they could be physically felt.

The 3-D creations are produced by ultra-quick lasers. The beams worry the air with ions until voxels appear, which are specks of plasma light. Then, using additional equipment, a tiny hologram appears. Due to certain technological restrictions, the mirage can only grow to the size of a human nail – or smaller. But at the moment nobody cares because they are too busy playing with the things. The holograms are interactive but that is not its main selling point. Incredibly, the miniatures can be pushed and moved around by hand. The images had a curious texture, which volunteers described as “sandpaper with a static shock.”

The high resolution came from speedy laser bursts, around the vicinity of 200,000 dots-per-second. This rapid-fire also helped with the interactivity but more importantly, it made the holograms safe to touch. There were other attempts to create the world’s first physical holograms but all the experiments ended in burnt fingertips. Eventually, the scientists realized their mistake. The laser shots lasted too long. Once they solved that issue, the rest was history.[6]

Future applications could include a holographic petting zoo and ticking off your floating shopping list.

2 A Lion On Fire

Estudiantes mark return to stadium with giant lion hologram

In 2019, the Argentinian football club Estudiantes de La Plata celebrated a special night. The club itself was 114 years old and returned this year to their home ground. Due to safety concerns, no matches could be played there for almost 14 years.

To mark the homecoming, Estudiantes treated their fans to a jaw-dropping show. In the news reports that followed, made viral by the stunning video of that night, the show was proclaimed as one of the best ever staged inside a football stadium.

There was no complex performance. Indeed, the show had just one star. The hologram of a male lion. The creature was “made” of fire and stood a few stories high. What made it so stunning was the reality of its movements. The enormous cat prowled along the top of the stadium, jumped down into the middle of the field and took swipes at an invisible opponent. The fiery carnivore even roared at the crowd. The scene was majestic, powerful and ultimately unforgettable.[7]

1 Conversations With Holocaust Survivors

Holocaust survivors preserved in hologram

In 2017, a remarkable tribute to Holocaust victims opened to the public. Visitors at The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center can now talk to 13 Holocaust survivors. Most of them were children when Hitler came, nearly all lost their entire families or endured horrifying things inside extermination camps. Their stories are heartbreaking, gritty and captivating.

The survivors are not there in person. Instead, audiences are introduced to their holograms. Even more remarkable, in a world first, they can interact with the holograms, ask them questions and receive answers in real-time.

The project was launched after a special center, called Take A Stand, was built. The construction of the building and creation of the holograms cost $5 million. Each survivor was interviewed to answer 2,000 questions while being filmed by 100 cameras in 360-degree videos. This produced the highly interactive holograms. They appeared on stage and engaged with the audience to give a direct account of what the Holocaust was like.

While working on the project, the survivors admitted that the experience dredged up agonizing memories but that the work was important. They did not want their ordeal to fade after their deaths and become a sentence in a history book. But as long as future generations can interact with the holograms, they can tell them directly what humans are capable of and that people alive today can make a difference. The latter is not a hollow gesture. After talking to the holograms, visitors are given a comprehensive talk and kit to make the world a better place.[8]

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fact checked by Jamie Frater
Jana Louise Smit

Jana earns her beans as a freelance writer and author. She wrote one book on a dare and hundreds of articles. Jana loves hunting down bizarre facts of science, nature and the human mind.

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