Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hologram of Jessica Yellin on CNN Last Night - I Saw Something Like This in 1979

How many of you saw Wolf Blitzer interviewing Jessica Yellin's hologram in CNN's coverage of the election returns last night? I you didn't, check it out below.

We've come a long way since Princess Leia in Star Wars. Back then, I wrote in my doctoral dissertation, "Human Replay: A Theory of the Evolution of Media" (1979), that "the third dimensional will replace the two dimensional image as surely and completely as color replaced black-and-white, and talkies replaced silent movies" (p. 282). But it's been a long time in coming - first developed back in 1949, we've seen holograms on credit cards and as special effects in movies. How close are we to seeing it a regular basis on television?

The better question is, how long will be it before our very televisions and movies and web screens are three dimensional - which show people, like Jessica Yellin, from all 360 degrees, from back, sides, and front, as she was standing there and talking to Wolf Blitzer in person?

High-definition television has taken us a big step closer, because the hologram needs a much better resolution of image than our older television screens provide. Fiber optic bandwidth increase has also been an important step towards holographic TV. But predicting the advent of a new medium in specific years is always a risky undertaking - the fax was invented back in the 1800s, and didn't become a major player in media until in the 1980s.

But, sooner or later, holography will be here. As I explain in my "anthropotropic" theory of media evolution, we invent technologies that communicate for us in increasingly human ways. Thus, as the above quote says, photography has evolved from black-and-white to color, silent to talking, still to moving - after all, we see in color, almost always hear some sound when we're looking at something, and the world is in motion. And just as dramatically as all that has happened, we will someday have holography for everything we see in our living rooms and on our desks and in the devices we carry and hold in our hands. The third dimensional is already part of our perception of the world. (See The Soft Edge: A Theory of the Evolution of Media for more.)

In the meantime, here's Jessica Yellin ...

PS - added a few hours after the above -

Some people on Gizmodo and elsewhere are claiming that the Yellin appearance (and also a dance done on CNN by were not "really" holograms.

Here's the gist of the response I posted:

About the CNN holograms being "real" or not:

First, there of course were no three dimensional images walking around out of the screen in anyone's living room. So if that's what anyone means by saying no way these were holograms, that's of course correct.

But if we're referring to the fact that Blitzer was talking to an empty stage - not the hologram of Yellin - then I think what we saw can still be correctly called a hologram. We saw a three dimensional image within the TV frame, talking to the flesh-and-blood Blitzer. That image was still a hologram for us, the viewer, regardless of what Blitzer saw or didn't see.

Or, put otherwise, I don't see a meaningful difference between a hologram on a stage broadcast on TV, and a blank stage in which three dimensional information is synched into the broadcast from another source and looks three-dimensional on the 2-D screen at home.

Or, put additionally otherwise, I see no meaningful distinction in this context between (i) an illusion of an illusion or hologram and (ii) an illusion or hologram - no difference between (i) an illusion of an illusion and (ii) an illusion.
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