(2 Nov 2018) LEADIN:
Holographic lecturers are teaching students at a London university, in what's claimed to be a first of its kind.
As "holographic telepresence" technology grows cheaper, it's hoped it will enhance the classroom experience, allowing academics and industry experts to deliver lectures remotely.
With a whoosh of computer graphics Google product manager and Imperial College London alumni, Marily Nika appears onstage at the university's business school.
Except, she's not there, she's in California. Her speech and movements are being beamed across the Atlantic Ocean, then manifested as a hologram onstage.
"Can you see me? Can you hear me? This is amazing," says Nika.
In what's claimed to be a first of its kind, Imperial College Business School is delivering a lecture to its students using holographic technology.
"It's like our window to the world, if you like," says David Lefevre, head of the Edtech Lab at Imperial College Business School.
"It's about making our business school more open to the world and about taking our business school to the world.
"So, through holograms, we can bring in lecturers from across the globe and they can appear in front of our students in a realistic manner, that's the key.
"So, we could use alternative webinar software, but we believe the hologram brings something different, that sense of presence.
"So, we're really hoping that this technology will bring the outside world into our classes and also enable us to take our faculty across the globe."
Previously used in big budget music shows, such as digitally resurrecting rapper Tupac Shakur and entertainer Michael Jackson, holographic technology has now become more affordable meaning more feasible for educational institutions.
Technically called "holographic telepresence," a moving 2D image of the speaker is projected onto a transparent display, creating the illusion of presence.
Fast online connections mean speakers can have almost natural, two-way interactions with their audience, with delays of about 0.25 seconds.
One drawback is it must be dark for audiences to see the faint holograms.
"We're essentially projecting onto a screen we're hiding from the audience," explains Rory Elliott from Toronto, Canada-based ARHT Media, which developed the technology.
"And that's really it, but the trick is to make it as believable as possible. We're presenting a 2D image as a 3D image and the iris is flat, so we see everything in 2D, our brain changes it to 3D.
"So, we're doing exactly the same trick, we're presenting a 2D image, but with depth of field and a really good vision our brain just changes it to 3D."
It's hoped the technology will enhance the classroom experience, allowing academics and industry experts to deliver lectures remotely, via hologram.
"What we want to do in the big scale of things and how Imperial is really grasping this right at the dawn of our industry is they're going to be putting this all around the world into different colleges and universities, business schools, maybe political, into industry," says Elliot.
"And we create a network, and that means that they can connect with anyone, at any time, any place."
The holographic lecture comes as Imperial joins a group of international business schools to create a new, online digital learning platform.
That includes learning institutions in Germany, Norway, Singapore, Canada and France.
"And the third way probably is maybe have Albert Einstein coming into the classroom, we wait for that."
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