Ukraine’s President Zelensky Appears At Multiple EU Conferences Via One Of Those Hologram-Ish Set-Ups

June 17, 2022 by Dave Haynes

There is absolutely a gimmick side to the hologram-ish set-ups that are a bit like shower stalls with a transparent LCD front to them, like showing spinning NFT art or allowing people to pose for selfies with long-deceased rappers. But there are times when these displays can be quite powerful, and really the only way to pull certain things off.

Like having the embattled President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, speak at several conferences far from Kiev. He’s a little busy, and can’t risk leaving his country.

Zelensky stood in front of a whitescreen and camera set-up in the Ukraine capital this week and was “beamed” to audiences at Stockholm’s Brilliant Minds, London’s Founders Forum, Amsterdam’s The Next Web and Paris’ Vivatech. It was also live-streamed to the Dublin Tech Summit, The AI Summit at London Tech Week and SuperReturn Berlin.

The companies involved included HereWeHolo (The Hague), ARHT Media (Toronto) and Evercoast (Brooklyn).

President Zelensky used the virtual appearance to seek financial and technological resources to start rebuilding Ukraine, suggesting digital transformation is central to any rebuild.

HereWeHolo is one of a handful of companies that have developed a method to light and live-video-capture people, and then relay that audio and video to custom display enclosures that enable the person to appear life-sized at the other end.

The manufacturers like to call the outputs holograms, but they’re not. They are transparent LCDs just like the ones you see here and there in grocery and chain drug in the refrigerated goods sections. The difference is the companies use a combination of white (or green) screens and clever, careful lighting at the production end, and a display enclosure that really amplifies the LED edge lighting. There is also a need to utterly minimize latency, as the illusion of presence falls apart if a spinning “buffering” icon pops up, or the speaker freezes in mid-sentence.

The net result is something that is pretty effective at making people appear to be right there. The novelty jobs may get the attention but this sort of thing – having people appear virtually when actually being there is touch or impossible – is, to me, the real potential and magic of this sort of thing.

This is the surprisingly involved “volumetric video capture” set-up used for Zelensky:

I think the first company to do this sort of thing was Portl, which has rebranded as Proto. This is me in a Proto set-up at InfoComm last week, shown so you can get a sense of how it works. The Proto set-up was way less elaborate than what AHRT did, but that might owe to the limited space at a trade show stand.

Still looked good though, if you set aside my being as photogenic as a turnip.



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