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How Microsoft Conjured ­p Real-Life Star Wars Holograms

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A researcher (left) and his hologram.

Holoportation, developed by Microsoft researchers in the HoloLens unit, projects a real-time hologram of a person into another room, where whomever is present can interact with it.

Credit: Microsoft Research

Microsoft researchers in the HoloLens unit sought to develop a more engaging communications platform for children than the usual media, and their solution is holoportation, in which a live hologram of a person is projected into another room, enabling real-time interaction with whomever is present in the room.

The system begins with three-dimensional (3D) capture cameras positioned strategically around a given space, capturing every possible viewpoint so they can be stitched together into a 3D model by custom software. Project leader Shahram Izadi says this step is continuous, as more frames of data lead to models of higher quality, with data-crunching handled by off-the-shelf graphical-processing units. "We want to do all of this processing in...around 33 milliseconds to process all the data coming from all of the cameras at once...and also create a temporal model, and then stream the data," Izadi notes.

Compression also is an essential step of holoportation, given the massive volumes of data produced and transmitted.

One problem with the process is the overlap of the 3D image with furniture and other objects in rooms, but this can be addressed by training the cameras to only focus on the items the user wants to holoport.

"The end goal and vision for the project is really to boil this down to something that's as simple as a home cinema system," Izadi says.

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