[This was my column for GlobalNews.ca. – AC]
Everything I know about holograms I learned from either Star Wars or Star Trek. Princess Leia’s glitchy SOS to Obi-Wan Kenobi projected by R2D2 to a bewildered Luke Skywalker. The occasionally malfunctioning holodeck on the USS Enterprise. The acerbic Emergency Medical Hologram Mark I on Voyager. All technologies of the far future — or so we thought.
That all began to change on day three of the 2012 Coachella Festival when Tupac Shakur was reanimated 15 years, seven weeks, and three days after he was killed in a drive-by in Las Vegas. A ghostly figure appeared during the set by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg and immediately addressed the crowd. “What the f— is up, Coachellaaaaaa!” He then launched into a couple of songs leaving the crowd stunned and the concert industry salivating at the idea of future resurrections.
Progress has been slow, but hologram performances are becoming more commonplace and far more sophisticated. The Tupac show involved a 2D image based on a 19th-century trick called Pepper’s Ghost that was recreated for Coachella by the same special effects team that worked on Titanic with James Cameron. More recent performances by dead artists (Ronnie James Dio, Roy Orbison, and Whitney Houston, to name a few) use different types of projection techniques that look far more realistic.
The Japanese have taken things in a different direction with performances by Miku, a crazy-famous pop star (more formally known as a “vocaloid”) who sells thousands of tickets wherever “she” appears.
Meanwhile, ABBA fans are waiting for the opening of ABBA Voyage, a residency at a custom-built theatre in London that will feature state-of-the-art avatars of each of the band members as they looked in the late 1970s. This is … wow.