Elvis will soon be back in the building – in hologram form, no less.
Billboard magazine recently reported that Digital Domain Media Group is teaming up with the company that owns Elvis’s brand to “jointly produce a series of ‘virtual’ Elvis likenesses for a range of entertainment projects.” The same tech company brought late rap star Tupac Shakur, singing alongside the very-much-alive Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, to music festival Coachella this year. His appearance shocked attendees and became a global phenomenon.
But forget dead rock stars. It’s certainly only a matter of time before political parties invest in this technology. Holograms could take political fundraising to a new level.
Imagine the fundraising ability for Republicans if a hologram of Ronald Reagan existed. He could talk about the shining city on the hill or morning in America in 3-D. Those who never saw Reagan in person would pack fundraisers to hear him give his greatest speeches. A candidate could literally say that Reagan endorses him or her. The money would rain into a campaign.
Or what if Democrats could bring back John F. Kennedy? He could stand beside a presidential candidate and say with certainty, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” The photo op would be priceless.
An even weirder thought: What if holograms allowed living, breathing politicians to be in more than one place at once?
Barack Obama and Mitt Romney could campaign in multiple battleground states at the same time. They could visit all of the 50 states, the territories and every Democratic and Republican dinner in the country. Numerous articles cite the Tupac hologram cost between $100,000 and $400,000 – a drop in the bucket in politics.
According to reports, the hologram technology used at Coachella to create Tupac was a combination of recorded live footage and CGI, creating a life-like visual effect that was downright life-like and creepy. New Scientist magazine reports that the company responsible for Tupac used a system created by Musion, a London company. The entire process, according to New Scientist, is based on a 19th century magic trick, Pepper’s ghost, that makes virtual images appear live on a stage.
Mind-boggling, yes? Impossible? No.
The New Scientist reported in 2011 that digital humans are the wave of the future. They wrote: “Actors will soon be able to record their likeness, potentially allowing them to star in films long after their death.” In fact, it’s been reported that a Marilyn Monroe hologram may perform later this year with live musicians.
So could politicians. What if Bill Clinton recorded footage in the next few years that future politicians could use for political cycles in the future? What if the real Clinton stood next to the deceased Kennedy at a campaign bash? The combinations are endless.
On Election Night in 2008, singer will.i.am appeared on CNN in hologram form to tell Anderson Cooper about his support of Obama. Reporter Jessica Yelin also appeared and joked that she was following the tradition of Star Wars’ Princess Leia.
People laughed then. Techies criticized CNN, saying that the channel, the first to use this type of technology, wasn’t really using true holograms. Maybe this November, the channel will have invested in true holograms.
Corporate Venues UK has a Web page dedicated to video conferencing in 3-D. “In a holographic meeting, you will be able to see life-size images of people standing and walking about in the 3D physical space of the meeting room, and several-foot-wide volumetric 3D images will appear to float in mid-air,” the site states.
Politicians have long been considered plastic and fake. Often, what you see isn’t what you get in politics. Brace yourself for high-tech insincerity.
Suzi Parker is an Arkansas-based political and cultural journalist and author of “Sex in the South: Unbuckling the Bible Belt.” Follow her on Twitter at @SuziParker.