Last night, September 3rd 2019, something truly extraordinary happened.
A small thing amidst the farce that is our current global political landscape, amidst great burning forests and a world crying out for genuine human connection…
Two founders came together from across opposite sides of the world via hologram, like in Star Wars.
It was 6:53pm in the BBC Radio Theatre in London, UK, where three hundred people had gathered to celebrate Digital Planet’s 18th birthday, restless and fearful as they checked their phones to see if Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit would be defeated, perhaps a room divided, given the diversity of the crowd.
Voxon co-founder Gavin Smith was up on stage with show host Gareth Mitchell and panelists Bill Thompson, Technology Writer and Principal Research Engineer at the BBC, and renowned Future and Immersive Tech Expert Gislaine Boddington.
Off to the side of stage, the Voxon VX1 Holographic Display was waiting in the wings for her moment of glory.
It was 3:33am at Voxon HQ inside the New Venture Institute of Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, where a handful of people gathered, checking data speeds and firewalls and lighting and sound and also the internet to gauge the likelihood of the broadcast being interrupted by an election announcement, drinking bad coffee to stay alert, though in truth the adrenaline would suffice.
Voxon co-founder Will Tamblyn was standing in front of a lighting rig and a device unrecognisable as a camera. Visibly nervous. Palpably excited.
And I could not help but wonder about the world.
So many focused on yet another chapter in the satire of our world leaders with their schoolboy politics and their old world fears. Important, perhaps, but hardly new, and even less inspiring.
So few focused or even aware that something genuinely game-changing and visionary was about to occur.
The world’s first real-time 3D international holographic video call.
The show opened, the audience cheered, the hosts listed off some of the great technology achievements the world had seen over the past eighteen years, and then there it was.
The Voxon came to life, and to the sheer wonderment of the team on stage and the studio audience, a hologram appeared.
Simulations at first, from an exploding supernova to ballet dancers, fluid and graceful in three dimensions. As the panelists gather around the hologram, and Gavin explains the concept of persistence of vision, not unlike how we can draw light in the air by twirling a sparkler in a figure eight, this concept of the digital campfire becomes apparent.
Unlike a 2D screen, people can gather around a hologram, viewing it from any angle. Adding another dimension brought with it new perspective – perhaps greater perspective.
And then into the “frame” steps Will, to the thunderous applause of the audience, and for the very first time in history, a live holographic video call became reality.
Two founders on other sides of the world spoke together not on the phone, not via Skype or Zoom, but 3D hologram.
This was technology that had the potential to bring us closer together.
Gislaine imagines how this could take streaming communication between families to a whole new level, no goggles, no glasses.
“Transformational,” Bill gushes – one step away from teleportation.
Gavin brings the house down as he notes the irony of having worked on the hologram for ten years, and here they were featuring perhaps the most visually impressive feat of human technology – on the radio.
The show moves on, the team in Adelaide, Australia breathe a collective sigh of relief, and with a smattering of tired applause and cold coffee dregs, they get back on with building the future.
Listen to the Audio here: BBC’s Digital Planet 18th Birthday Show