Research, Technology

What is holoportation and where is it used?

The fantasy series Star Trek hasthe character Doctor, who is a hologram of an ambulance officer. He resides in the fictional spacecraft USS Voyager in case the crew doctors are unable to work any further. Recently, the scenario from a science fiction film was turned into reality - the NASA aerospace agency sent a three-dimensional model of the surgeon Josef Schmidt to the ISS and one of the astronauts was able to talk to him as if the specialist was on board the station. This became possible thanks to the technology of holoportation, which has been developed by Microsoft for several years. Equipment for a new way of communicating people at a distance is very expensive, so only large organizations can afford it. However, after a few decades, it may become public, so let's find out how it works.

Hologram of surgeon Josef Schmidt on the ISS

What is holoportation?

In short, holoportation isa technology that creates a 3D model of a person and transmits it to another device in the form of a moving hologram. As a result, there is an effect in which the interlocutor at the other end of the device seems to be nearby. Unlike a regular hologram, a person can be viewed from all sides and, according to the developers, even interact with him.

Holoportation is a new kind of technology3D capture that allows you to create, compress and transfer high-quality 3D models of people anywhere in the world in real time, says the Microsoft website.

Thanks to new technology, communication at a distance can be made more “alive”

The first thing you need for holoportation isspecial cameras to quickly create a 3D model. Two cameras are enough for this, but the more there are, the better the image of a person is obtained. The second component of the technology is the mixed reality headset. At the moment, the best option for this purpose is the HoloLens helmet from Microsoft. It is needed in order to see and interact with the 3D model of the interlocutor.

HoloLens mixed reality headset

How does the HoloLens helmet work?

The HoloLens mixed reality headset isa compact computer that is equipped with a variety of visual sensors and a system for forming an image on lenses in front of the user's eyes. These lenses have a wave-like structure, due to which they refract and send visual signals from the microdisplays located on the sides to the user's eyes. When forming a picture, the system takes into account the position of the helmet in space, as well as the objects surrounding the person.

HoloLens helmet on a man's head

When the person on the other end is in the fieldview of the cameras, a three-dimensional model of his body is created in real time. This information is transmitted to the HoloLens helmet, refracted and fit into the surrounding space of another person. As a result, there is a feeling that the interlocutor who is several kilometers away is in the room and you can communicate with him and interact in every possible way.

See also: Is our Universe a hologram? And what about black holes?

Demonstration of holoportation on the ISS

Recently, the NASA aerospace agencydemonstrated the possibilities of holoportation technology on the International Space Station. Like the doctor from Star Trek, a hologram of the surgeon Josef Schmidt and members of his medical team appeared on the station. Astronaut Thomas Pesquet donned a HoloLens helmet to talk to them. This was the first time that holoportation technology was used to communicate over such a long distance - the space station is at an altitude of more than 400 kilometers.

It's a whole new way of communicating with people onhuge distances. Imagine that you have the opportunity to take the best instructor or a real developer of a particularly complex technology with you wherever you go,” Josef Schmidt shared.

Hologram of Josef Schmidt and his colleagues

Astronomers don't want to stop there.Next time they plan to install cameras even on the ISS so that interlocutors from Earth can also feel them nearby. The main thing is that they have enough power to transfer large amounts of data - to reduce the load, the image is highly compressed in quality. There is no exact data, but, most likely, the information is transmitted by radio. It is known that antennas are located on the ISS and on the command and measuring complexes on Earth, which transmit signals in the same way as in terrestrial conditions. The only difference is that the equipment in the space industry is more powerful and more sensitive.

The ISS maintains contact with the Earth despite the huge distance

It is believed that in the future holoportation will beactively used in the gaming industry, for psychotherapy sessions, educational events and even for remote work. During the coronavirus pandemic, people have already become accustomed to video calls, and in the future, holoportation may make them more “alive”.

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If you are interested, my colleague Lyubov Sokovikova told in detail what a hologram is. I strongly recommend reading it - here is the link.