MIT Demos Real-Time Princess Leia Holography Via Kinect Hack

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A research group from MIT’s Media Lab has leveraged commercially available technology to transmit holographic video over the internet.

And like any hologram demo worth its salt, one of the group’s members donned full Princess Leia garb to re-enact the fabled “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope,” scene from Star Wars.

What’s truly remarkable is that the group’s hardware setup consists of a single Xbox 360 Kinect camera and a standard laptop on the transmitting end, and a desktop computer with three graphics processing chips on the receiving end—all relatively inexpensive, store-bought technology.

The display used to project the hologram, however, is “the one component of the researchers’ experimental system that can’t be bought at an electronics store for a couple hundred dollars.” The group says it’s working on “a new display system that is much more compact, produces larger images, and should also be cheaper to manufacture,” according to MIT News.

The transmitted holographic video runs at 15 frames per second, which is about half the rate used for television broadcasts. The group is “confident that with a little more time, they can boost the rate even higher, to the 24 frames per second of feature films or the 30 frames per second of TV.”

They were able to boost the initial frame rate from seven seconds to 15 seconds in about a week, even though they “didn’t get their hands on a Kinect until the end of December.”

There’s a short YouTube video that demonstrates the technology in action, though the actual holographic effect doesn’t look like much unless you’re there in person. But once the holographic projection display becomes more affordable and the frame rate gets doubled, we could be headed for an entirely new era in videoconferencing.

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