During the global novel coronavirus pandemic, meetings over the video conferencing service Zoom became part of the new normal. Today, it is all too common for employees to use Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and other video over IP (VoIP) services to become better connected.

The use of these services continues as some employers believe it is better for communication, and it ensures that those working remotely aren’t playing solitaire or browsing on Amazon during a conference call. Despite the benefits of Zoom, and other services, it often lacks a person-to-person connection.

This is where holographic technology could further bridge great distances but allow for greater connectivity between parties. While it could be decades before the technology is commonplace, we could be inching closer to what has largely only been seen in the domain of science fiction.

Just as holographic “Jedi” and other characters could sit around a conference table in the world of Star Wars, soon world leaders could be meeting “face-to-face” via holograms.

“During the pandemic,  Zoom and FaceTime accelerated the recognition that better and more authentic granular communications tools are needed,” said Susan Schreiner, senior editor/analyst at C4 Trends. “Holograms are now seen as a futuristic panacea for Zoom fatigue in the workplace.”

Holopresence Taking Shape

John C. Morning, vice president of global military and defense at ARHT Media – developer of holographic technology – told ClearanceJobs that we shouldn’t see its Holopresence as a step forward, however; rather he said it should be more accurately described as a leap.

“Using holographic technology for communications, for meetings, or any other situation where being there in person is important, but the impact of being there as a hologram cannot be understated,” explained Morning. “Holographic presence increases the impact of meetings. It allows full engagement and makes a lasting impression equals recession to all involved. This is literally the future that we are bringing today!”

Better Read of the Room

Already there is a concern when world leaders are talking on the phone – and can’t meet in person – that certain nuances can be misunderstood. Even in person, a lot could be “lost in translation,” and we only need to imagine how Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s apparent threat to Western diplomats, “We will bury you,” could be even more misperceived.

Given increasing tensions, there can often be little room for such misunderstandings, yet the ability to read “body language” and “facial expressions” isn’t possible on a phone call, and barely so on Zoom.

“Being able to not only see people in a holographic environment, see their body language but for the person appearing as a hologram to be able to interact and see the audience adds an entirely new dimension,” Morning continued.

“Being able to not only see people in a holographic environment, see their body language but for the person appearing as a hologram to be able to interact and see the audience adds an entirely new dimension,” Morning continued.

“In the realm of diplomacy, military and other governmental interactions between world leaders – holographic technologies hold profound implications for war, compromise or peace,” added Schreiner.

“Holograms give remote interactions a more natural feel than standard team video calls, where people talk at the same time by accident and participants can’t see body language cues,” she told ClearanceJobs. “Imagine the significance for government officials to remotely  see, sense and hear, and get a full 360 view of their counterpart’s environment and the accompanying people – as if they were in the same room, sharing the same space.”

This could also ensure that leaders aren’t wasting time flying around the world to meet one another, yet can still engage in a more meaningful way that VoIP might allow.

“Using holograms in communications is the next natural step,” suggested telecommunications industry analyst Jeff Kagan.

“We’ve seen this illustrated in movies like Marvel’s Avengers. The reason world leaders get together for a conference is the personal and private communications they can have with each other off the radar,” Kagan told ClearanceJobs.

Addressing the Downside

This isn’t to say that all holographic technology will be immediately embraced. Moreover, it may not always be the most ideal solution.

“Virtual holograms may be the next natural step in communications, but it doesn’t deliver the isolated privacy which is just as important to world leaders or CEOs strategizing their next move,” Kagan added. “Like every advancement, it’s not perfect.”

There is another issue that will also need to be addressed, namely the worry of “Deep Fakes,” which already makes many question anything that appears in the form of a video.

“Holograms would convey much more depth in a conversation but they could, if misused, also create far stronger fake impressions of the people and particularly the objectives and priorities,” warned technology industry analyst Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group.

“Now it would be most useful where people who don’t trust each other are interacting and it does provide options where you could creatively use Deep Fake-like technology to improve your image, to make you look subtly more like those you are talking to, and to obfuscate any inadvertent behaviors that could reduce trust – like taking out eye rolls when you hear something that you think is stupid or wrong which would create unintended animosity,” Enderle told ClearanceJobs.

There is also the issue of bandwidth, and how lag can make a video call more frustrating than static on a phone call.

“This technology is resource intensive, you need bandwidth and you need some kind of interface typically an AR or VR headset and we still don’t have occlusion fixed with AR headsets and the HoloLens effort is getting a lot of pushback from the military at the moment and it is one of the best,” explained Enderle. “So assuring enough bandwidth and hardware that will be acceptable in the field would still need to be sorted. But, there is a lot of potential if it were done right, we just aren’t yet at a point where I think it can be done right where it would be most useful and we’d particularly need some kind of Deep Fake defense.”

Virtual Instructors

Of course, communication with holograms is just one part of how the technology could be employed. There are other opportunities for it to truly enhance the way the military can engage in training.

This is already beginning with augmented reality headsets, but holographic technology could be accomplished in a specialized room where the headsets that Enderle suggests may not be as necessary.

“Communications with holographic technology is a VERY small part of what we bring to the military environment,” said Morning. “The ability to teach courses at multiple locations at once, or recording standardized courses and providing a fully engaging experience, at a fraction of the cost, while increasing access cannot be understated.”

It could allow senior leaders to “beam in” the morning of a meeting, and using the same system could be recorded and utilized for future training.

“The medical unit can beam in a specialist on some new medical procedure, and teach the course at multiple locations at once,” added Morning. “Then, the maintenance tech can use the systems 3D models to teach a course on a new system that is being fielded using the touch screen capability to essentially explode the system and teach the details before the new technology is even fielded.”

What once seemed like sci-fi tech could be normal stuff in the coming decade, but it wasn’t all that long ago that video conferencing was something that only existed in movies and TV shows.

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer who covers business technology and cyber security. He currently lives in Michigan and can be reached at petersuciu@gmail.com. You can follow him on Twitter: @PeterSuciu.