The world's first-ever international holographic teleportation has just been conducted

This is what the future is going to look like.
Ameya Paleja
Hologram projection stock image.
Hologram projection stock image.piranka/iStock
  • Holoport is a combination of hologram and teleport.
  • NASA holoported a flight surgeon to the ISS last year.
  • Holoporting could be a game changer for rural healthcare.

Researchers at the University of Western Ontario recently completed the world's first-ever international holographic teleportation.

The coronavirus pandemic pushed the digitalization of many day-to-day functions of our lives. An important one among them was meeting people. Instead of having to commute to the office or travel across the oceans for a meeting, one could simply connect via an online video call and get the work done.

Even after two years, virtual meetings haven't been able to completely replicate the ease of an in-person meeting, something that researchers are hoping holographic teleportation can solve. A combination of hologram and teleport, the technology is fondly called holoport and allows one to instantly beam the hologram of a person to a far-off location, much like the Star Trek universe.

How does holoporting work?

Making the fictional Star Trek technology a reality required a few companies to come together. Tech major Microsoft has been working on its HoloLens for quite some time to bring in mixed reality for business and gaming applications.

Houston-based Aexa Aerospace provides the software that enables a special camera to create holographic images of the subject and his environment, which can be seen using the HoloLens. Last year, NASA holoported flight surgeon Dr. Josef Schmid using Aexa's technology.

Researchers at Western, in collaboration with a Canadian company, Leap Biosystems, are now working with Aexa to figure out the medical applications of this technology. If both the subject and the user wear the HoloLens, they can interact in their environments as if they are physically present in the same room. To demonstrate this, the researchers at the Western Institute for Space Exploration (Western Space) conducted the first international holographic teleportation on July 27.

"We transported one person from Alabama to London, Ontario, and then each of the students here on the project were able to instantly holoport themselves in holographic form down to Huntsville, Alabama," said Adam Sirek, a faculty member at Western Space.

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What happens next?

The team, comprising largely of medical students, is keen to use this technology to facilitate medical examinations in remote areas and believes this could be a game changer for rural healthcare.

While the setup can help transmit images and voices across, currently, that is where its capabilities end. Physicians rely on a large range of parameters, such as blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, etc., while making their diagnosis. Additionally, physical touch is a big part of medical examination, something holograms cannot replicate.

The research team is keen to incorporate haptics, the technology that allows transmitting and understanding information using touch into their project in the future.

Beyond medical care, the technology could also help improve virtual meetings, where three-dimensional presence could become the norm one day. Even informally, holoportation could help people in a lot of ways. "Wouldn't it be nice if you're on a three-month deployment to the space station, and you could come down and sit in the room (at home) for a family dinner," Sirek said in the press release.

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