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Explainer: Did the Turkish PM actually give a speech via hologram?

Instead the hologram was created using an illusionary technique that dates back to the 19th century.

Image: Polyvision ViZoo/YouTube

HOLOGRAMS HAVE COME back into the news again after news that the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan delivered a political speech through the medium.

Delivering the speech to Justice and Development Party supporters in the city of Izmir, he spoke about the country’s upcoming election as well as an ongoing corruption scandal that’s happening there.

As a publicity stunt, it’s impressive, but what was witnessed in that video wasn’t a hologram. Instead, the techniques used to create this effect go back as far as the 19th century.

What is a hologram?

By definition, a hologram is a photographic technique that records the light that bounces from an object and then reproduces it. What separates it from a traditional photo is that a hologram uses a laser instead of light to capture the object.

By splitting the laser beam into two – creating a reference beam and an object beam – and redirecting them using mirrors, the object beam is used to capture the object.

The reference beam is directed into the medium itself, so it doesn’t clash with any imagery that comes from the object beam. When both are combined, it creates a virtual image for you to look at.

(Video: Head Squeeze/YouTube)

When has it been used?

Apart from the Turkish Prime Minister using it, probably the most famous example happened at the Coachella music festival in 2012 where Snoop Lion (then known as Snoop Doog) and Dr. Dre performed alongside a hologram of Tupac.

The stunt was covered extensively and generated talk of former stars gracing the stage through this technology.

(Video: westfesttv/YouTube)

However, neither Tupac or the Turkish Prime Minister were true holograms by any means. Instead they were created using a number of illusionary techniques.

So how were these ‘holograms’ created?

All of it come down to a technique called the Pepper’s Ghost illusion. Created by the 19th century magician John Henry Pepper, it allows you to create an illusion by reflecting an object onto another screen.

This object is reflected on a transparent foil, located on the stage, which creates a ghost-like figure for the audience to see. For the Tupac projection, it cost between $100,000 to $400,000 (€73,000 – €292,000) to create, which also included creating a CGI version of the artist that was projected onto the stage.

imageSome of the technology used to create Tupac’s performance in Coachella in 2012 (Image: AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes).

A similar technique was used in Turkey, except the screen used to create the illusion is clear to see, especially near the end of the video. It’s probably more accurate to describe both as projections instead of a hologram.

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Why hasn’t the technique taken off?

In the case of music artists, the reason why the idea went suddenly quiet and why former stars aren’t performing on stage is because it’s time-consuming, it’s costly and getting the required image and song rights for an artist is tough.

Also, it didn’t help matters when the company responsible for the Tupac projection – Digital Domain Media Group, who created CGI effects for a number of films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Tron: Legacy – ended up filing for bankruptcy later that year.

Expense and time are other factors since creating the effect isn’t the easiest, especially since you have to set up the required equipment and have as little lighting as possible before the projection is done.

Since there’s no way to project real-time actions through this method, it means the use these holographs have are limited.

So how long will it be before we see proper holographs?

While events like the one in Turkey puts the idea back in the spotlight, the technology is still a long way from appearing in our day-to-day lives. While there have been developments with holographic technology in recent times, the setup required severely limits what you can do with it.

The technology is slowly developing, but it will take some time before we see them appearing in our lives and even longer before true holographic projections appear.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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